Courtesy of Yale Athletics

The Yale gymnastics team fell by the slimmest of margins to Penn in its Ivy League opener this past Saturday in Philadelphia. With the 193.575–192.125 loss, the Bulldogs remain in search of their first victory of the 2017 season.

Now three games into their short season, the Elis remain without a win. Nevertheless, Saturday’s tight contest harbored several positive signs for the New Haven gymnasts. Yale dominated the uneven bars and the team’s freshmen continued to demonstrate their potential as well.

“Overall the team did a very good job,” head coach Barbara Tonry said. “It is early in the season for us and I think we are on the right track to be extremely competitive for Ivies, the ECAC and to qualify for the USA collegiate nationals. … We are competing five freshmen along with our sophomores, juniors and seniors, so it is a learning experience for some.”

Despite the loss, Yale dominated Penn in the opening event of the contest, the uneven bars. The three top performances all came from the women in blue and white. But that Bulldog podium was flat, as all three top scorers — Allison Bushman ’18, Megan Ryan ’18 and captain Tatiana Winkelman ’17 — earned the exact same 9.800 tally. The team’s overall bars score was 48.750, less than a point ahead of the 48.375 the Quakers posted.

In the team’s first two meets, Yale had not demonstrated the same effectiveness on the bars. Against George Washington, Yale fared better on the vault and floor. And the uneven bars were, in fact, the Bulldogs’ weakest event against Stanford, Boise State and the University of California, Davis. Winkelman noted that the mounting time in the practice gym has given the team the ability to correct its smaller mistakes.

“We’re now far enough in the season that we can focus on not just making our routines, but making them perfectly, with attention to the little details like form and hitting our landings,” Winkelman said. “Gaining those few tenths back on each girls’ routine really adds up to give us those high bar scores.”

But despite their display on the bars, the Elis were not able to hold off Penn’s comeback in the following events. The Bulldogs narrowly lost the vault 47.800–47.750 and kept the score close on the floor, to 49.025–48.575, but lost handily on the beam 48.375–47.050.

According to Tonry, the beam — the last and deciding event of the nail-biting contest — is one of the most nerve-wracking events to compete in. Yale is working on mental toughness in the event in order to improve its overall score.

For Ryan, the 9.800 mark on the beam was half a point higher than any score she had received in her career at Yale in the event. And for Bushman, that same 9.800 mark matched her career best.

“Coming off of last weekend where I didn’t have the best bar routine in California, I wanted to prove to my team and myself that I can be a valuable contributor to the bar lineup,” Ryan said. “It felt amazing to do a great routine that I was proud of, and I felt like the hard work in the gym this past week paid off. I was so happy to see the reactions from my coaches and team when I stuck the landing.”

As with the Bulldogs’ first three competitions, the scorecard reflected the talent of Yale’s freshman class. Rebecca Chong ’20 received the team’s highest vault score, Emma Firmstone ’20 tallied Yale’s top beam mark and Jade Buford ’20 was the only Bulldog to compete in every event. Moreover, Firmstone’s 9.700 was the personal best of her young career.

Yale competes next at home in the annual Don Tony Bulldog Invitational against the University of Bridgeport, Southern Connecticut State University and Rhode Island College at 4 p.m. on Saturday.