Despite a last-place finish in the ECAC Championships on March 19, a score of 192.150 ensured that the Yale gymnastics team can conclude its season at a national championship meet for the second-straight year.
The Elis emerged from the six-team ECAC Championships with a Regional Qualifying Score of 192.025, the highest Yale RQS since 2003 and a high enough mark to secure a berth to the USAG National Collegiate Championships on April 9. Cornell won the meet with a 193.925 and qualified for nationals along with Brown.
The meet, which marked the end of the Bulldogs’ regular season, came nine days after the team posted a 193.700 — the fifth-highest score in school history — against Bridgeport, and six days after a third-place finish and score of 191.775 in a meet with George Washington and Kent State.
“We expected to peak at ECACs, and you could see our scores and our confidence building all season long,” said Tatiana Winkelman ’17, who was recently named ECAC Scholar of the Year. “We had a rough start on beam, a mentally challenging event to lead off on, but were able to leave our mistakes behind us and refocus to put out great routines on the other three events. Gymnastics is such a mental sport, and the entire team displayed their mental toughness this weekend.”
The day began with a rough performance on beam, during which three of the six gymnasts suffered falls, forcing Yale to count a 9.000 and 9.125 in its final score. A cumulative 46.900 on the apparatus — led by Brittney Sooksengdao ’16, whose 9.750 tied her for 10th in the event — put the Bulldogs 1.725 points behind the first-place competitor after just the first rotation.
On floor, Bulldogs were able to enter a full lineup for the first time in three meets, as the addition of Jessica Wang ’19 relieved some of the pressure felt during five-person lineups earlier this year. Wang scored a 9.675 in her first floor performance of the season. Kiarra Alleyne ’19 and Camilla Opperman ’16, who had been unable to practice the prior week due to sickness, led the Bulldogs with a pair of 9.750 scores, tying the two for eighth in the event overall. The team scored a 48.450, the fourth-best score on floor in the meet.
“We could have very easily let our rough start on beam kill the rest of the meet for us and knock us out of nationals,” Sooksengdao said. “But the resilience and fight we showed to come back and have an amazing set on floor, vault and bars was a huge testament to the talent of this team and our determination to qualify [for] nationals.”
The Bulldogs continued to fight for their qualification with a vault performance of 48.000, led by a career-high 9.675 from Roxanne Trachtenberg ’19. Wang also landed a career-high of 9.625, a score matched by Megan Ryan ’18. Opperman walked away with a 9.550, and Anella Anderson ’17 with a 9.525. The team placed fifth in the event, and after the third rotation, remained more than two points out of first place.
The meet concluded with uneven parallel bars, where Yale nabbed a season-high 48.800 and won the event overall. Winkelman tied her career high and landed in a tie for first place overall with a 9.825, and Anderson and Trachtenberg both scored career highs with two 9.750 scores. Allison Bushman ’18 and Ryan, meanwhile, tallied 9.775 and 9.700 marks, respectively. For the first time this season, every gymnast stuck the landing, Winkelman said.
“The pressure was on for bars because we needed to hit a huge team score to lock in nationals qualification, and we more than did that,” Sooksengdao said. “The energy was huge from the team as we watched and cheered as girl after girl hit amazing routines on bars. It was such a phenomenal way to end the meet on such a high note and send us to nationals.”
Three gymnasts competed in all four events. Though it was Wang’s first all-around competition of the season, she led the Yale competitors with a 38.075, putting her in eighth overall. Ryan and Anderson followed in ninth and 10th places with scores of 37.925 and 37.825, respectively.
Though the winning bars performance was not enough to push the team out of last place at the meet, the Bulldogs finished with a 192.150, which was their fourth-highest score of this season.
Yale’s RQS of 192.025 is the seventh best in the 12-team USAG division. Penn, with a ninth-place RQS of 191.790, was the highest-performing team in the division that did not qualify.
Head coach Barbara Tonry praised the team for its ability to come together despite multiple injuries, and highlighted the role of the three freshmen on the team, who have competed in every event this season. She added that there remains untapped potential to hit every routine, and emphasis will be placed on form, consistency and dismounts during the practices before nationals.
“I think last year we didn’t know what to expect going into nationals, as it was the first time we had made it as a team in some years, but this year we can go in feeling prepared to hit 24 for 24 routines and put up our highest score of the season,” Winkelman said. “The great, and also frustrating, thing about gymnastics is that nothing is ever perfect — there is always something to improve upon, and you can always get better. YGT has been relentless in that pursuit this season, and we’ll continue working in these next practices to be perfect, and end this historic season on a high note.”
The USAG National Championships begin on April 8 at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.