The Yale gymnastics team set yet another new benchmark at the Ivy Classic this weekend but failed to beat Ivy foes Penn and Brown.
With a season-high team score of 192.225, the Elis placed third behind host Penn’s 193.725 and defending champion Brown’s 193.425. Yale did beat Cornell, which scored 191.175. Last year, the Bulldogs came in second with a score of 190.250. This season, they have scored higher than 190 in all but one meet.
“I’m pretty proud of how we did as a team, at Ivy’s,” said Joyce Li ’15, who placed second in the all-around. “Our weakest events are vault and floor, so we’re going to work on cleaning them up. We had a few little mistakes this past weekend … We really needed to go out there and have a perfect meet.”
With an individual score of 38.550, Li was Yale’s top all-around finisher. Captain Morgan Traina ’15 finished seven-tenths of a point behind Li, good enough for fourth all-around, and Anella Anderson ’17 finished sixth.
The odd-numbered all-around finishes went to Brown, as Jorden Mitchell claimed the title with a 38.650, and teammates Caroline Morant and Diana Walters came in third and fifth, respectively.
“Some of the highlights of this meet were people’s confidence and the way we hit a lot of our routines,” Traina said. “I think we went 21 out of 24, so we want to clean up the little things. We want to make all of our landings a little cleaner as well as hit those last three routines.”
The Ivy Classic — which serves as the Ivy League Championship because only half of the Ancient Eight teams have gymnastics programs — rotates through the four schools that still have varsity women’s gymnastics team.
A year after Traina took home the top score on beam at the Ivy Classic, the crown went to her teammate, Brittney Sooksengdao ’16, with a score of 9.800.
“I think it is really special that we’ve managed to have a lot of beam titles at Ivy’s,” Sooksengdao said. “I know Morgan [Traina] won it twice [in 2012 and 2014] and finished top last year. There was an alum in the audience, and she told us to keep the beam Ivy title with Yale, keep passing it on within Yale. And we did, so that was pretty special.”
The Bulldogs also put up strong individual performances on bars, their strongest event this season. Li, Traina and Allison Bushman ’18 all put up scores of 9.750, good enough for a tie for sixth place.
The 9.750 marked a career best for Bushman, who recently returned from a concussion. Her bars routine features a particularly difficult dismount — a double layout — but Bushman stuck the landing, according to Traina.
“We do have a couple people putting upgrades on bars,” Traina said. “Our lineup has been changing constantly this season. We’re not just doing more but trying to improve quality as well. We’ve been hitting more of the routines we’ve been doing in practice.”
Lineups are carefully set the night before the meet to ensure that routines improve upon each other. Since scores build, the coaches craft a lineup that increases in difficulty and cleanliness of execution as all six gymnasts compete. If one gymnast misses a routine, Li said, she prevents the scores from building, so everyone ends up with lower scores.
Yale unveiled a vault lineup at the Ivy Classic that took advantage of this building philosophy. Instead of having specialist Camilla Opperman ’16 anchor the event, Anna Merkuryev ’18 was given the last slot.
Merkuryev competed a layout full, turning one complete flip and one twist with her body in a straight position. Her vault has a starting value of 10.0, as opposed to the vault that Opperman and Traina competed — a full in a tuck position — which has a starting value of 9.9.
The freshman hit her vault, and her score of 9.725 tied not only her career-high on the event but also the day’s second-best score on the apparatus.
Unlike the majority of their meets this season, however, the Bulldogs did not start on vault. Rather than proceeding in Olympic order, which concludes with floor, Yale began the day on floor.
Opperman anchored the event with the team’s highest score, 9.800, which placed her in a four-way tie for third on the apparatus.
“Usually during the meet, scores get higher as the meet goes on,” Brianna Chrisman ’15 said. “The last event gets higher scores. Floor requires the most energy, so it’s good to compete it when everyone has high energy.”
This order actually worked to Yale’s advantage, Li explained, because the team was able to end the day on bars and beam. Although beam is usually not the preferred apparatus on which to conclude because it creates pressure, the team played to its strengths.
The Bulldogs will also start on floor at the ECAC Championship, the second big meet of the season, according to Li. Yale hosts the conference championship at the end of March, when it welcomes the three aforementioned Ivy schools as well as Temple and William and Mary.
Though the Quakers took the team title and the Bears won the all-around, the Elis are looking forward to getting another chance to compete against their rivals.
But from Yale’s perspective, no specific team enters with a target on its back, according to Traina.
“I think it would probably be different if you ask the upperclassmen or underclassmen,” Traina said. “Brown has been quite good the last few years, and they won the Ivy Classic last year. All the upperclassmen would tell you Brown because they’re the team we’re looking to beat. But Penn did great yesterday, so we’re equally looking to beat both of them.”
Before hosting the ECAC Championship, Yale competes in three more meets. Next Friday, the team travels to Maryland to take on Rutgers and Michigan State at Towson University. Competition begins at 7 p.m.