Despite uncharacteristic mistakes that led to a season-low team score, strong individual performances propelled the Yale gymnastics team to a victory over visiting Springfield College on Saturday. The Bulldogs defeated the Pride 188.650–184.250 and placed first in every event, though Springfield College senior Abby Clark took the all-around title.
The meet also marked Yale’s senior day, as it was the last regular season home meet for captain Morgan Traina ’15, Katherine Lucas ’15, Brianna Chrisman ’15 and Joyce Li ’15. Posters for the seniors adorned the walls of the John J. Lee Amphitheater and all four senior gymnasts had family members present.
“I feel like it was too early in the season for me to get really upset about it being our senior meet,” Lucas said. “I would have been a little more emotional about it if we didn’t have ECACs at home, and would have been more upset if it was last time we ever competed on that floor with all our friends and family there.”
The Bulldogs started out well on vault, with event specialist Camilla Opperman ’16 scoring an event-high 9.700. Right behind her was teammate Traina with 9.600.
The day got tougher during the next two apparatuses, as two gymnasts fell on both bars and beam. A third gymnast had to dismount the bars after missing an element.
Despite shaky performances, Yale came out on top. Li led on bars with a 9.675, followed by teammates Tatiana Winkelman ’17 with a 9.625 then Allison Bushman ’18 with a 9.600.
Traina and Brittney Sooksengdao ’16 tied for the top score on beam with a 9.775, also the highest score earned at the meet. In her routine, Sooksengdao unveiled a new pass on beam that added an additional back layout to her back handspring-layout pass. She and Traina were followed by Anna Merkuryev ’18 with a 9.625, then Anella Anderson ’17 with a 9.425.
In her routine, Anderson landed a trick of the highest possible difficulty level: two connected aerials ending in an arabesque position. This marked the first time Anderson landed the aerial into the Liukin, as the second aerial to arabesque is called, in front of a home crowd.
“After landing the series I was extremely excited and felt very confident about the rest of my routine,” Anderson said. “I was a little off to the side going into my arabesque, but was able to square up and pull it out, which I was very happy about.”
By linking the two aerials, meaning she did not put her second foot down on the beam between the elements, Anderson earned 0.4 bonus points.
Saturday also marked the debut of Kacie Traina ’17, the sister of captain Morgan Traina, who performed her beam routine as an unscored exhibition.
“I was really anxious because I haven’t competed in a couple years,” Kacie Traina said. “I’ve been battling injuries. It was so much more exciting there to have my family there to see my first real college meet. Plus it was a senior meet, which made it all the more special. I love competing with Morgan. It’s definitely brought us closer.”
Kacie Traina missed her freshman season with an elbow injury. This season, she has been hobbled by torn ligaments in her thumb and a stress fracture in her shin.
“We were all so proud of her,” Lucas said. “At this point we’ve all experienced some injury. It’s upsetting and sad especially because college gymnastics is more of a team sport, and it was so exciting to watch her compete.”
The Bulldogs ended the day on the floor exercise, where again Opperman anchored the team with the highest score. She equaled Traina and Sooksengdao’s beam score with a 9.775 on floor, a full 0.150 higher than the next highest score in the event.
After the conclusion of the meet, the four seniors’ parents escorted them across the floor as the announcer read details of their careers as Yale gymnasts, as well as their post-graduation plans.
According to their printed bios, three of the senior Bulldogs plan to attend graduate school — law school for Li, medical school for Lucas and the Yale School of Public Health for Traina. Chrisman will be working at Google as a software engineer.
Although the seniors have bid farewell to the home crowd for the remainder of the regular season, the gymnastics season is far from over. Next week, the team travels to compete in the Navy Pier Quad Meet, and heads to Philadelphia the following week for the Ivy Classic against Ancient Eight foes University of Pennsylvania, Cornell and Brown.
The gymnasts will next compete in the John J. Lee Amphitheater on March 21, when the University hosts the ECAC Championships.