Finishing three points behind meet winner Lindenwood, the Yale gymnastics team wrapped up its season with a fourth-place result in the final competition of the season.
In a year that saw the Bulldogs welcome six freshmen to their roster, the Elis saw some of their strongest performances in recent memory, highlighted by the program’s first team title at the ECAC championship. Last weekend, Yale finished fourth of five teams with a score of 192.975 at the second semifinal at the USA Gymnastics Women’s Collegiate National Championships, hosted by Seattle Pacific.
“This weekend went really well,” Jade Buford ’20 said. “We had a few mistakes here and there, but overall it was a pretty strong performance. We had a season-high floor performance. Everyone did amazing, basically [tying] or [beating] their season highs.”
During the team day of competition, the Bulldogs had gymnasts place inside the top 10 on all four events. Buford led the Elis on both the balance beam and the floor exercise, tying for ninth on the beam with two other gymnasts with a score of 9.750. The freshman also secured third in the all-around after claiming the Ivy title earlier this season.
Buford, the co-ECAC Rookie of the Year, also dominated on the floor, earning a 9.875 that was good for fourth place and the opportunity to compete in the individual round on Sunday. On the event, the team scored a season-high 49.050 — the fifth highest total on the floor in program history — with help from 9.850 performances from Kiarra Alleyne ’19 and Ella Anderson ’17, both of whom joined Buford in the individual competition.
Megan Ryan ’18 also earned the chance to compete in the individual round after tying for first place on the uneven bars with a 9.825. Yale also advanced two Bulldogs on the vault, Rebecca Chong ’20 and Anna Jennings ’20, who earned scores of 9.800 and 9.750, respectively.
Of the six gymnasts who qualified for individual competition, half were freshmen. The promise of the underclassmen has been a trend all season, which bodes well for the Elis in the future
“Immediately coming in, the freshmen immediately gelled with the team and were committed to working hard,” captain Tatiana Winkelman ’17 said. “You could see immediately that we had much more depth than we’ve had in recent years. … You could tell from the beginning that we had the talent and the drive to be a top contender in our conference.”
Although Yale failed to advance to the next round of nationals, the team broke new ground in its 2017 campaign. In addition to a win over Brown at home, the Bulldogs earned second place at the Don Tonry Invitational and first place at the ECAC championships to establish themselves at the top of the conference.
Last season, the Elis also placed fourth at the USAG semifinals with a score of 192.350. Although the team did not move on, Jessica Wang ’19 won the individual national title on the balance beam last year with an unprecedented score of 9.875.
“As a team, we were coming off a really strong season last year, and we wanted to continue that upward trend, and ultimately we did, which was really exciting,” Ryan said. “We came together and pulled off that ECAC win which was incredible. I think another goal was just to really love what we do, and when we love gymnastics, that’s when our greatest gymnastics is done.
Five gymnasts were awarded first-team All-American honors — Chong on the vault, Ryan on the bars and Alleyne, Anderson and Buford on the floor exercise.
While the roster is young, with 11 underclassmen on the 17-gymnast roster, three seniors will graduate as members of the class of 2017: Anderson, Winkelman and Kacie Traina ’17.
“The future holds so much for this team — every year records break and history is made,” Anderson said. “I know Yale will be the team to beat at every meet, and I cannot wait to watch and cheer them on as an alum.”
Won Jung contributed reporting.