Steve Musco

For the first time since 2005, the gymnastics team captured the crown at the Ivy Classic, scoring a school record 195.025 this Sunday and cementing this year’s team as one of the best in program history.

Matching up against the other three Ivy League teams at Brown this weekend, the Bulldogs put together their best performance of the season — and ever — off an incredible combined team effort; not a single Eli scored under 9.500 in any event on the night. Cornell put up a competitive 194.350 to claim second place, Penn came in third with 193.875 and the hosting Bears finished last with a score of 192.975.

“It is so rewarding to be able to compete with a team as close and supportive as this one,” Emma Firmstone ’20 said. “We have been so consistent in practice these last few weeks, so we are confident in ourselves and in each other in competition. Having that confidence allows us to just go out there and have fun, which definitely takes off some pressure.”

For the fifth meet in a row, Yale improved on its score from the previous meet, jumping 0.325 points from their competition against William and Mary last Saturday. That meet’s score of 194.700 was the third-highest score in school history at the time. In breaking the 195.000 mark in overall score, the Bulldogs also surpassed the 49.000 threshold in an event for the first time this year, doing so in floor and the uneven bars.

The Elis started the afternoon at the Pizzitola Sports Center on the balance beam. After securing Yale’s third-highest all-around individual score ever at last week’s meet, Jacey Baldovino ’21 came out roaring at Ivies with a 9.825 to place first among all competitors. The rookie entered the meet as the reigning ECAC Gymnast of the Week for her work against William and Mary. Consistency across the board propelled Yale into the second position after the meet’s first event, with four gymnasts scoring between 9.600 and 9.650.

Then Yale moved onto floor, the team’s best event of the Ivies. Jade Buford ’20 put forth a strong routine to land in first place, tying her career high with a 9.900. Not a single of the team’s athletes scored under 9.800, with Firmstone coming in second place at the meet with a career high 9.875. Yale swept the podium on the event as Kiarra Alleyne’s ’19 9.850 earned her third place. The Bulldogs’ score of 49.250 is their highest event score of the season and the third-highest floor score in school history.

“As a team and as individuals we have set goals for ourselves since the beginning of the season, but going into this meet we didn’t have any expectations,” Alleyne said. “All we wanted was to get out on the floor, give it our all, and see where the pieces fell, and that’s exactly what we did. Every single person on the team did their job and our love for the sport was able to show through, giving us our best performance of the season.”

After taking the lead with the floor exercise, the Elis maintained their hold on the top position with a solid 48.275 vault score. Buford took first place again, landing a career high score of 9.800. Rebecca Chong ’20 trailed behind her with a 9.725, the third highest score of the event.

Yale did not disappoint in its last event, scoring a clutch 49.075 on the uneven bars and breaking another school record. This closed out any chance of a comeback for the Quakers, who were trailing by 0.450 going into the closing event. Wang repeated her career high from last week’s meet, landing a 9.900 and taking first place. Megan Ryan ’18 came in second place with a season-high score of 9.850. Baldovino and Buford took their curtain calls in the all-around with matching 9.800s.

There was just as much individual success on the day for the Bulldogs as there was team success. The Elis swept the first-place spots for every event, and the team’s three all-arounders swept the podium. Buford broke her career high after setting it last week, emerging in first with a 39.225. Baldovino, who claimed the program’s third-highest all-around score last week with a 39.250, earned a 39.000 this week to place in second. Firmstone also achieved a career high, rounding out the top three with a score of 38.650.

In a season filled with broken records, the 2018 team had its biggest record-breaking afternoon at the Ivy Classic. The Bulldogs avenged their disappointing loss in last year’s edition of the annual meet and now hold top spot in the school record books as a result.

“I think that we were determined to win that Ivy title that slipped out of our grasp last year and we knew that we could do it with the dominate team that we have this year,” Buford said. “I think something that has changed is our mentality while competing. As a team, we have always had fun on the competition floor, but our early success this year has given us more certainty that we can hit our routines. This ultimately allows us to be more relaxed during the meet and able to deliver such dominating performances.”

By eclipsing 195.000, a feat the team never achieved last year, the Elis seem in prime position to repeat as ECAC Champs as that competition approaches in a little over a month. If Yale is able to sustain and build on its score from this week, it will be nearing the average scores of the nation’s top 25-ranked teams. Winning Ivies was the first large step for this season, but the Bulldogs could be a sleeper to make a big splash in the postseason.

The team will have its next outing at Maryland with Penn and Temple this Friday at 1 p.m.

Brain Yeo | brian.yeo@yale.edu