The Yale gymnastics team made its home debut against Ivy foe Penn on Sunday, ultimately falling to the Quakers by a score of 189.575 to 188.725.
The loss comes on the heels of a season-opening loss to New Hampshire last week, a 189.700-point performance by the Bulldogs. Uneven bars and balance beam continue to be strong points for Yale’s team, which was six for six in both events against New Hampshire and won on the same two apparatuses against Penn.
“Last weekend at UNH, bars and beam stood out as unbelievable events,” captain Camilla Opperman ’16 said. “They were probably the highest they’ve been since I’ve been here. We struggled a bit on floor and vault at UNH so that’s what we focused on [the week before Penn]. We haven’t peaked yet but we have an enormous amount of potential on all four events.”
Though individual Yale gymnasts earned top-five finishes in every event, small missteps on each of the four apparatuses diminished the team score. Megan Ryan ’18, the meet’s only all-around competitor, earned or tied career-best scores on both bars and vault en route to a 37.750 composite.
On vault, the Bulldogs’ first rotation, Opperman and Ryan finished fourth and fifth with scores of 9.525 and 9.425, respectively. Ryan and Tatiana Winkelman ’17 then became two parts of a three-way tie atop the uneven bars standings, scoring 9.700 along with Penn’s Elyse Shenberger.
Winkelman would make an additional appearance on the scoreboard, finishing third on the beam with a career-best 9.650. Teammate Anella Anderson ’17 was right behind her with 9.600, good for fourth place.
Brittney Sooksengdao ’16, the reigning Ivy League beam champion, competed on three events, scoring 9.275 on the vault, 9.175 on beam and 9.150 on floor.
Floor, Yale’s final rotation, had one unsettling moment when Sloane Smith ’18 landed poorly on the first tumbling pass of her floor routine and injured her ankle. She walked off the mat on her own, but was unable to finish her routine.
“It was a little bit rattling,” Ryan said. “I wanted to comfort her, but I had to prepare for my routine. Camilla came over and tried to help me stay in the proper mindset. We took a lap around the floor and I refocused and thought what I had to do.”
Ryan went on to perform a bouncy, energetic routine, earning a 9.675 — a career-best mark on the apparatus — to finish fourth on the event. Opperman praised her mental toughness and competitive spirit, noting how far the sophomore, who fought injury all last year, has come.
After Ryan came Kiarra Alleyne ’19, a powerful tumbler who followed her 9.625-point debut on floor a week ago with a 9.725-point encore. The freshman’s routine earned her a tie for first place with Penn’s Carissa Lim.
Alleyne is one of two active freshmen on the roster. With the three other members of the class of 2019 sidelined with injuries, Alleyne and all-around competitor Roxie Trachtenberg ’19 have been thrust into the spotlight early in the season.
“They’ve both been placed in very tough situations in that they have a very large role in our team,” Winkelman said. “They have remained calm and collected throughout all that, which is no small feat. I’m really proud of them for being able to do that. They came in with a lot of fire and energy, and they’ve managed to sustain it.”
Opperman, a specialist whose high-flying floor routine captured her an ECAC title a year ago, rounded out the floor rotation with a score of 9.450.
As she finished her routine, members of her team on the sideline mirrored Opperman’s choreography, shouting encouragement as they danced with her.
“A lot of people don’t realize how much of a difference that can make,” Opperman said. “Having people like Anna [Merkuryev ’18] and Kacie [Traina ’17], who have been hurt but are still conditioning and cheering for us, is huge. Keeping spirits high makes a world of difference.”
Despite the injuries affecting its depth chart, Opperman said the team has turned away from the individual nature of its sport and focused more on three team goals: never fall at a meet, earn a regional qualifying score of 193 for the season and win the Ivy Classic on Feb. 28, a meet that includes Penn.
The final goal even has a neat hashtag, Opperman explained: #14get15in16. There are 14 gymnasts on the team seeking Yale’s 15th title in the year 2016.
“[The team’s injuries] might make it a little more difficult, but at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team,” Winkelman said. “We’re all striving towards our team goals, so whether you’re competing all four events or cheering your heart out on the sideline, we win as a team and we lose as a team. That’s something everyone has remembered.”
Yale moves on to host Bridgeport, New Hampshire and Southern Connecticut State in the Don Tonry Classic this weekend. The meet will begin Saturday at 1 p.m. in Lee Amphitheater.