Gymnast Jade Buford ’20 won the individual all-around title at the Ivy Classic on Saturday, leading Yale to a third-place finish. The News spoke to Buford, the first Yale gymnast to capture the individual title at the Classic since 2010, about her performance this weekend.
Q: You posted a career-high all-around score of 39.025 at the Ivy Classic. What factors contributed to such a strong performance at the meet for you?
A: I think I felt more confident in my routines because it was later in the season. We do the same routines [throughout the season] so that we get comfortable with them and we can do them automatically with no hesitation. The home crowd really helped; my family … came in from Dallas … and my friends from home and my suitemates [were all watching]. I could hear my teammates screaming for me, and that motivated me to do well not just for myself, but for the team.
Q: How confident were you feeling entering the Classic? Did you consider yourself in the running for the all-around title?
A: To be honest, I didn’t really think that I was in the running for it, just because there are so many strong girls on each team. I knew the senior, Caroline [Morant] from Brown, had won it two years in a row, so I didn’t really consider myself a contender for the title.
Q: What was the high point of the Classic for you? Is there a specific part of your performance you feel especially proud of?
A: I think floor was probably the highlight, because it was a really high score and as a team we did really well in that event and were able to build off each other. Floor is my strongest event and it’s also my favorite event, so I would say I had more confidence in that event.
Q: You also earned career-high scores in the uneven bars and the vault this past weekend. Are those events in which you feel you’ve especially improved?
A: I think that I have improved on those events, just working on details. I upgraded my vault, so that was something that really helped, because my start values went up. The old vault that I did is a front handspring front tuck. A couple of meets ago, I changed to a front handspring front pike, and the starting value went up from 9.700–9.800 to a 9.900.
On bar, I just focused on the details, and that helps your score go up. Just wanting to do well at the Ivy Classic gave me more energy to do good routines.
Q: How has competing for Yale’s program differed from your experience competing as a high school gymnast?
A: I think at the beginning of the season, I was a little more timid, and I didn’t really know what to expect out of a college competition. Club competitions are so different; they’re really individualized. [In college], you’re really competing as a team, and how you perform affects your team. Realizing that has helped me progress as a gymnast.
The practice regimen is a lot different from club. You’re at practice for a shorter amount of time, but it’s more focused. You get in and do what you need to do. You need to be aware of what you need to do.
The coaching style is also very different. In club, the coaches are more strict. Here, the coaches see that we’re adults and know what we need to do. They give us assignments, but if we need something else, we can talk to them. It’s a lot more personalized.
Q: Did you have any performances of this caliber during your club career?
A: I had some good performances during states and last year’s regionals, where I qualified to nationals. I had a really good all-around score and that got me second in the all-around [at regionals].
Q: Yale finished only 0.450 points behind the Ivy Classic champions, Cornell, which was good for third place out of the four teams. How do you feel about your team’s performance?
A: Although it was a little disappointing that we didn’t come out with the win, I think we performed really well in the floor, bars and vault. We had an awesome showing on bars. [Though we] had a couple of mistakes on beam, we came back on floor and vault. … Our performance really showed how up-and-coming the program is and the team is, and I think it showed the other Ivy schools how good we are and how much better we’re getting.
Q: What motivation does your individual and team performance give you for the rest of the season? What are your aspirations for the ECAC, regional and national championships?
A: Our showing at Ivies really motivates me and the team to focus on our details because we realize that every single point counts, and it will really determine if we’re in first or third. We need to minimize the little mistakes.
One goal that we have is to come out as champions at ECACs and show the Ivies what we are made of and what we can do. We didn’t have our best showing at Ivies but we want to show them we are the team to beat.