Following a season-high performance at last week’s Ivy Classic, the Yale gymnastics team put up another strong performance, scoring less than four-tenths of a point off of their record at Towson.
Earning a team total of 191.875, the Bulldogs ultimately finished last, behind Michigan State, Rutgers and Towson. The meet featured the highest score Yale has seen all year, as No. 23 Michigan State put up a team total of 196.275.
“Bars and beam went pretty well,” Camilla Opperman ’16 said. “Beam scoring was harsher than we’ve gotten used to, but in general the team did really well. We didn’t get our highest team score of the season. We were close and overall, we came out proud of what we did.”
The high-scoring meet proved to be a success for captain Morgan Traina ’15 and Joyce Li ’15, who came in second and third in the all-around, respectively. Michigan State’s Lisa Burt finished half a point ahead of Traina to claim the top spot.
This meet marked the second time this season the Bulldogs have traveled to face nationally ranked teams.
“Coming into the meet is kind of intimidating,” Tatiana Winkelman ’17 said. “Just the sheer number of girls that are there is intimidating. We’re a smaller team — we’re only 13. But we kind of feed off of their energy. I’ll see a girl hit a skill, and I know I can hit my bars dismount just like they can. It makes me want to make my gymnastics better.”
Yale still managed to hold its own in what turned out to be a closer contest than the team scores imply. On bars, for example, only one-tenth of a point separated the top 10 scores.
The floor exercise, the Elis’ highest-scoring event for the first time this season, saw only a 0.150 separation between the first and 10th place gymnasts.
“Floor has kind of been a weak spot so that’s really the place the coaches have directed their attention,” Opperman said. “We’ve been really focusing on cleaning up the landings. Before it was about making routine. Now it’s making a routine well and making sure we get all of our leap points and our landings.”
Opperman tied for fourth and earned the Bulldogs’ highest score on the apparatus with a 9.825. For her performance, which earned the highest score obtained by an ECAC gymnast this weekend, Opperman was named conference Specialist of the Week for the second time this season.
Opperman’s fourth-place finish was the highest of the day for the Bulldogs. The team’s other top finishers were Anna Merkuryev ’18, who was 10th on vault; Traina, who was 16th on bars; Anella Anderson ’17; and Li, who tied for 18th on beam.
One week removed from the Ivy Classic, the Bulldogs are looking to finish their season on a high note.
“After Ivies comes what we call the post-Ivy slump,” Winkelman said. “We put so much energy into the Ivy championship. It’s so easy to relax, but we need to be doing the exact opposite. Now is when we really need to focus and work on the details. When we compete in ECACs, it’ll be at home. We can go in really confident, knowing we can hit 24 for 24.”
But before hosting ECACs, Yale hits the road for a spring break road trip. The Bulldogs will start at George Washington University, competing on March 8, then head north to compete at Brown on March 15.
In the meantime, Yale is working on fine-tuning their routines.
“We’re working on tightening up all of our skills, focusing on landings, and the little things that could bump our scores up,” Megan Ryan ’18 said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing if we can build on our team score. I think we can keep the positive scores up. We’re really working on details and trying to set a new high score.”
The ultimate goal, according to Ryan and Opperman, is to qualify the whole team for the USA Gymnastics Nationals.
The team must finish in the top eight in a bracket composed of teams that offer fewer than seven-and-a-half full scholarships.
Opperman noted that despite the limitation, the competition is still varied because there is a huge difference between a team that can offer seven scholarships and a team, like Yale, that offers none. Seven girls, Opperman pointed out, is almost half of a team, and often means the Bulldogs are up against tough competition.
“I don’t know when the last time we qualified as a team,” she said. “Right now, it’s looking pretty good, so going into GW, we really want to make sure we post the highest possible scores.”
ECACs occur on March 21 in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.