In a victorious Saturday meet against West Chester University and Rhode Island College, Yale’s gymnastics team compiled its best performance of the season, sweeping first place in every event, all while honoring its two seniors in the final home meet this year.
Competing in front of a raucous home crowd in the John J. Lee Amphitheater, Yale’s team score of 192.275 topped the Bulldogs’ previous high score of 191.475, which they earned at the Don Tonry Bulldog Invitational two weekends ago.
“It was our energy,” Megan Ryan ’18 said. “One of our focuses was having a great attitude and landing every routine, and getting excited about everybody’s performances. I think that is what set us apart. We also felt like the crowd, the team and the coaches all came together, and were really energized and had a ton of fun.”
Yale started strong in the vault, where captain Camilla Opperman ’16 earned a high score of 9.700, tying her previous career-high and landing first place in the event overall. Yale finished the first rotation second to West Chester, but less than a point out of first place.
Jessica Wang ’19 and Tatiana Winkelman ’17 led Yale’s uneven bars performance, outscoring the competition across all rotations with a 9.775 each. All Elis scored above a 9.000, ending their second event with a 48.200 to further narrow the margin between them and first-place West Chester at the end of the second rotation.
Wang’s tie for first place was especially impressive considering she only had one day of practice before the meet. In fact, she had been sidelined all season due to injury before being cleared on Thursday, allowing her to make her collegiate debut.
In the balance beam portion of the day, Ryan bested all competitors with a 9.800, earning Yale another first-place result. This strong performance in the third rotation — a 48.525 cumulative score — also put Yale in the lead overall, surpassing West Chester’s 143.950 with a 144.125 overall through three events.
“Our beam rotation was one of the best that we’ve had, since I’ve been on the team at least,” Ryan said. “There was a lot of great energy with every single hit routine.”
Beam was particularly strong for the Elis: Not only did the team top its previous performances this season with the 48.525, but three competitors notched career-highs, including Ryan and Anella Anderson ’17, who took first and second respectively in the event overall.
In the fourth and final rotation of the meet, Opperman finished the day with a high score of 9.825 on the floor exercise to give her two first-place finishes overall. Led by its senior captain, Yale tallied a 48.150 in its fourth rotation, culminating in a 192.275 finish, ahead of West Chester’s 191.125 and Rhode Island’s 176.325.
Kiarra Alleyne ’19 closely followed Opperman with a 9.800 to take second, giving Yale sweeps of the top two positions in three of the four events. Also of note during the floor routines was the return of Allison Bushman ’18 in the event, returning Yale to a six-person lineup and thus relieving some pressure from her teammates.
While West Chester’s Majesta Valentine earned first in the all-around event, Ryan and Anderson earned second- and third-place finishes respectively for the Bulldogs, as they each achieved career-highs.
The meet was particularly important to graduating seniors Opperman and Brittney Sooksengdao ’16, for whom this was the last home competition of their careers. They were honored in a ceremony after the competition, which Sooksengdao described as “bittersweet.” Ryan said the team strove to send the seniors out “with a bang,” doing whatever it could to make the last home meet a success.
“Being a part of the gymnastics team here has been the absolute highlight of coming to Yale,” Sooksengdao said. “First of all for allowing me to come to this school, and for all the opportunities, experiences and friendships it has opened for me.”
Sooksengdao and Opperman saw this as the first event in which the full potential of the team has come together, and praised the resilience of those competitors battling sickness or injuries. Winkelman attributed much of Yale’s success to the attention of head coach Barbara Tonry, who emphasizes the “little extras,” such as improved posture and presentation, that give Yale an added finesse when it comes to being judged. The number of routine repetitions has increased in practice, Winkelman said, as the team attempt to build its stamina for the competitions ahead.
The team hopes this weekend’s momentum will carry it well into the Ivy Championships, which Opperman said Yale is “100 percent capable of winning.” The team will then go on to compete in the ECACs, held in March, and potentially Nationals, which take place in April.
“We’ve known all season that this team has so much potential and in the first couple weeks of the season, it hadn’t all come together yet,” Winkelman said. “This weekend is the first time it really came together, and we know we can do it again, and do it better.”
Next weekend, the team faces Southern Connecticut State University and Brown in an away meet hosted by Southern.