Yale Daily News

The Yale gymnastics team opened its home season with a set of strong individual performances at the Don Tonry Bulldog Invitational, earning a second-place finish to kick off a pair of consecutive home weekends.

For the invitational dedicated in honor of legendary gymnast Don Tonry, the Bulldogs hosted Bridgeport, Southern Connecticut State and Rhode Island College. Although the Elis, with a score of 191.275, finished behind the Purple Knights, who secured the top spot with a score of 193.175, they handily defeated both Southern Connecticut State (184.950) and Rhode Island (172.800).

“Overall I was pleased with [the] progress over last week’s performance,” head coach Barbara Tonry said. “Our uneven bar team did another outstanding job as well as the floor exercise team. Vaulting is getting better but we need to concentrate on landing vaults without stepping or hopping out.”

Yale began its day on the vault, where Rebecca Chong ’20 led the Bulldogs with a score of 9.550, good for fourth overall on the apparatus. Roxanne Trachtenberg ’19 also met the 9.500 mark to finish sixth overall, with Megan Ryan ’18 in eighth with a score of 9.475.

The Bulldogs came closest to overtaking Bridgeport on the uneven bars, one of the team’s strongest events in recent years, scoring just 0.200 behind the Purple Knights. Ryan and captain Tatiana Winkelman ’17 earned third and fourth place with marks of 9.650 and 9.625, respectively.

From bars, Yale moved to beam, where two freshmen took the team’s top scores. In the fifth and sixth spots in the rotation, Jade Buford ’20 and Emma Firmstone ’20 tallied scores of 9.675 and 9.800 to finish third and fifth. Their strong performances at the end were bookended by Ella Anderson’s ’17 leadoff score of 9.600. The scores marked a season high for Anderson and career-best for Firmstone.

“I was really nervous for the first few competitions, but we’ve really been working on consistency and pressure sets in practice which has definitely helped me to have more confidence when I compete,” Firmstone said. “Having supportive teammates and a home crowd helped take away some of the nerves.”

Firmstone nearly equaled her beam score with a 9.700 on floor exercise — 0.025 of a point off her career best, but just the third-highest Eli score of the day on an event her teammates dominated. Buford scored a 9.825 on the apparatus, the second-highest floor score of the day, while Kiarra Alleyne ’19 brought the house down with a rollicking floor routine that scored a 9.750.

Yale scored a combined 48.475 on the floor exercise, its highest event of the day, and just 0.150 behind Bridgeport’s event score. Bridgeport took the top scores on every apparatus, which contributed to its nearly two-point margin of victory. Still, the Bulldogs were right there nipping at Bridgeport’s heels, as the team was within half a point on three of the four apparatus.

Ryan attributed much of the Elis’ success to strong performances by underclassmen: Freshman gymnasts earned the top Yale score in every event except the uneven bars.

“Our freshman class is one of the most talented classes … we have ever recruited,” Ryan said. “They work hard in the gym and are truly dedicated to contributing to the team in every way possible. Their passion for gymnastics is demonstrated through their work ethic in practice and their performance during competition.”

Yale will compete at home next Saturday against Brown at 1 p.m.

Kevin Bendesky contributed reporting.