For the second meet in a row, the Yale gymnastics team set a seasonal best amid strong competition, scoring 192.800 last Friday at Iowa State — improving from the 192.050 at the Towson meet the week before last — as they finished at the bottom of the four-team field.
Coming off a strong performance, the Elis encountered an imposing lineup at the Hilton Coliseum in Iowa. The hosting No. 24 Cyclones defended their home arena well, winning the meet with an impressive 196.200. Over a point separated them from runner-up No. 27 West Virginia, whose score of 195.025 gave it the advantage over Northern Illinois, which came in third with 194.375. Though Yale trailed in fourth place, the team was well-rounded, scoring over 48.000 in all of its events for the first time this season.
“We’re continuing to improve each week,” head coach Barbara Tonry said. “Being in meets with such high-powered opponents shows the team they are capable of competing at that level with a little more work on confidence and details with finesse. If we can accomplish this we will show off the potential talent we have on this team.”
The entire Bulldog squad burst out of the gates with a near-impeccable floor exercise. All six of the team’s gymnasts scored over 9.525, with Jade Buford ’20 beginning her all-around campaign by achieving a team-high score of 9.700. Joining her in the all-around campaign were Jacey Baldovino ’21, who scored 9.675 on the floor, and Emma Firmstone ’20, who scored 9.625. Sloane Smith ’18 matched Firmstone with a 9.625 of her own.
Moving to vault, Yale surpassed 48.000 on the event for the third time this year, scoring 48.050 as a team. Baldovino, who had just earned her second ECAC Rookie of the Week of the short season for her dominance at Towson, and Buford led the team again, scoring a pair of 9.725. Rebecca Chong ’20 contributed strongly with a 9.675. Meanwhile, Rowan Palmer ’21 debuted for Yale with a yurchenko layout to earn a 9.300.
After a stellar first month, Baldovino noted that she has learned to be more confident, which has translated to being more precise in every skill.
“Obviously at the start of the season I was nervous to make my college debut, and the nerves sort of made me doubt myself,” Baldovino said.
As has been the case for the Bulldogs all season, bars was the team’s best event, as their score of 48.475 trailed Iowa State’s competition-high score by only 0.65. Jessica Wang ’19 asserted her command of uneven bars, tying her season best with a 9.825. Her score was the third-best individual score at the meet.
Baldovino, scoring only one point lower, boosted the team’s score as well. Roxie Trachtenberg ’19 and Buford both scored 9.625, and Megan Ryan ’18 concluded the event with a very solid 9.675.
“Bars is our best and most consistent event at this time,” Tonry said. “We are striving to elevate the other events to that same level.”
The final event of the night, the balance beam, had been the Elis’ worst event at Towson the week before, where they tallied a meager 46.875. However, Yale was able to bounce back this Friday, scoring 48.075 to cement an overall score of 192.800. Firmstone was the catalyst for the team’s improvement, scoring a career high in the event with a 9.850, tied for best among all competitors. Baldovino was right on Firmstone’s tail, earning a season high for herself with a 9.825. Buford concluded her all-around competition with a 9.725, and Kiarra Alleyne ’19 added a score of 9.625.
Baldovino may be in store for a third ECAC Rookie of the Week award, as her 38.950 all-around score bested her score last week and is also a career high. Buford pulled out her best all-around performance of the year as well, ending the meet with a 38.775. Firmstone, the third all-around Bulldog competitor, scored a 38.225 and barely missed out on a season high by 0.025.
The Bulldogs are now less than a month away from the Ivy Classic. Though they have not yet broken 193.000, which they had done by this time last year, their upward trend in scores is promising. Adding to the team’s potential is the fact that the team is not yet at full health, with several members sidelined by injuries.
“We are definitely improving scores each week,” Tonry said. “We are a little short and weak on depth due to a few gymnasts out for injuries. Hopefully they will return to lineup soon.”
While the Elis have not placed in the top half of the field in their past couple of competitions, rankings and qualifications for postseason competition are based on average scores rather than placement at individual meets. As long as the team continues its progression, it will be in good shape in a few months.
Yale will get a chance to test itself again this Saturday at home, as it hosts the Don Tonry Invitational with Bridgeport, Southern Connecticut State University and Springfield.
Brian Yeo | firstname.lastname@example.org