On Friday, the Yale gymnastics team rebounded from last week’s season-worst performance against Springfield College in a tri-school meet in the Windy City. The Bulldogs scored 190.750 points at the Navy Pier Quad Meet in Chicago, placing behind Iowa State’s 194.950 and Northern Illinois’s 194.475.
The annual meet is an Illinois Gymnastics Institute-sponsored event that invites top club, college and youth teams from all over the country to compete. This year marked the first time Yale attended, and the first time the team as a whole has flown to a meet, according to Katherine Lucas ’15.
“The teams we went up against were definitely ranking-wise better than us,” Sloane Smith ’18 said. “We did well against the teams, and against our personal bests. We can do better, but we made a good showing. I’m proud of all the girls and what we did.”
As of Feb. 16, Iowa State is ranked No. 27 in the country and Northern Illinois is No. 47.
In addition to facing more highly ranked teams, the Bulldogs were out of their time zone. The competition, which began at 7 p.m. CST, ended late Friday night. Smith, who exhibitioned on the floor, went last for the Bulldogs, so her performance did not begin until after 10 p.m.
“For the most part, it was really fun competing against the new teams,” Brianna Chrisman ’15 said. “We saw new skills and some great gymnastics. I’d say it pushed us to try and compete better.”
Yale began the evening on the vault. Anna Merkuryev ’18, the only freshman to compete in the all-around this season, led the team with a 9.750. The score also marked Merkuryev’s career high. Event specialist Camilla Opperman ’16 was right behind Merkuryev with a 9.600, followed by three teammates — Lucas, Joyce Li ’15 and Anella Anderson ’17 — with scores of 9.450.
Anderson and Merkuryev were the only two Bulldogs to compete in the all-around. Merkuryev came in third overall, behind Iowa State’s Caitlin Brown and Haylee Young, with a 37.925. Anderson earned a career-best 37.650. Captain Morgan Traina ’15, who has competed in the all-around since her freshman year, did not compete on floor and vault this week because she was sick, according to Chrisman.
The Bulldogs then moved to their highest-scoring event of the day: uneven bars. Five of the six gymnasts who competed on the apparatus scored higher than a 9.500, leading to a team total of 48.300 on the event, narrowly missing Northern Illinois’s score of 48.950 but better than the Cyclones’ score of 48.275.
Li topped the leaderboard for the Bulldogs with a season-best score of 9.775. Tatiana Winkelman ’17 finished just five-hundredths of a point behind Li, earning a career-high score of 9.725.
Next, Yale moved to beam, which ultimately was its lowest scoring event of the day. Brittney Sooksengdao ’16 led Yale with a 9.700 on the apparatus, followed by Winkelman with a 9.425.
The Bulldogs ended their day on floor. Their team total of 47.875 relied on strong performances from both Lucas and Anderson, both of whom earned 9.700 for their routines. With that score, Anderson set her career high and Lucas tied her season high. Additionally, Merkuryev established a new career high with her score of 9.550.
“It was definitely a big weekend for individuals on all events, actually, not just one or two,” Smith said.
Following a post-competition meet-and-greet with alumni, the team had Saturday to tour Chicago. They stopped at tourist spots such as Willis Tower, One Museum Park and the Cloud Gate, according to Smith and Chrisman.
While touring, the Bulldogs received news of their flight’s cancellation due to snow in Hartford. Coach Jason Vonk managed to get the team on an earlier flight into Newark, Chrisman said, and the team arrived at the airport around 3:50 p.m. for a 4 p.m. flight.
Once the excitement was over and the team was back at Yale, the Bulldogs turned their attention to the upcoming Ivy Classic.
“We got out the little falls,” Lucas said. “Hopefully that was getting everything out. We know what we need to do to hit Ivys.”
Two of the next four meets pit the Bulldogs against Ancient Eight foes. The biggest regular season meet occurs next week, when Yale travels to Philadelphia for the Ivy Classic.
The team hopes to keep the momentum going against Penn, Brown and Cornell, the other three Ivy League schools that have varsity women’s gymnastics programs.
“I think this was a good meet to have right before Ivys because for the most part, it was a lot of fun,” Chrisman said. “It wasn’t super high stress so we got a fun weekend, a fun meet and now have the week to focus and detail our routine right before Ivys.”
The meet begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22 at Penn.