In her eight weeks competing as a Yale gymnast, Jacey Baldovino ’21 has won the ECAC Women’s Gymnastics Gymnast of the Week Award, the Rookie of the Week Award five times, achieved the third highest all-around score for Yale gymnastics and made school history by scoring Yale’s highest-ever mark on balance beam.
It’s easy to see why. The first year from Atherton, California is at once powerful, precise and elegant. A capable all-arounder, she has proven herself a reliable competitor for Yale on all four apparatuses, with consistent vaulting, clean tumbling and expressive artistry. However, most noticeable is Baldovino’s flexibility and extension, which adds a unique air of elegance to her gymnastics.
“[Baldovino] is a very hard worker and so upbeat,” head coach Barbara Tonry said. “[She] has improved in floor and beam presentation, and we will maintain what she has and keep her confidence level up through post season. She is a delight to have on our team.”
Although Baldovino has broken records on the balance beam, her performances on the uneven bars have been equally impressive. The highlight of Baldovino’s bar routine is her piked Jaeger — a release from the high bar into a front somersault in piked position before regrasp — a skill she has cultivated since eighth grade. Baldovino achieves incredible lift in this skill, rising well above the bar at one point during the somersault, making it look flighty and effortless. The routine ends with a full pirouette connected directly into an double tuck dismount, a combination that Baldovino hits every time.
Baldovino performs on all four gymnastics apparatuses for Yale, but she considers vault her weakest event. At the moment, she competes a Yurchenko full twist vault with a maximum score of 9.95. In contrast, the maximum value she can attain on each of the other events is 10.00. For context, Baldovino typically receives anywhere from 0.10 to 0.30 in deductions on each apparatus; therefore a 0.05 difference in start value between vault and the other events is not insignificant. Baldovino has no current plans to upgrade her vault. Instead, she has focused on perfecting her execution of her current vault.
“I have height, but I don’t have rotation, which is why I land with my chest low,” Baldovino said. “I’m working on [basic Yurchenko vaults] right now, trying to perfect the basics. Lots of drills.”
Baldovino’s goal for the rest of the season is to score a 9.80 on vault. Her highest score to date this season is 9.775.
Recently, Baldovino has been hampered by a shin injury, which forced her to reduce her training load. Last month, after the first week of having to ease her training, Baldovino achieved her career-high all-around mark at the Yale home meet against William & Mary, a 39.250.
The beam has been Baldovino’s best event in her debut campaign, and she already holds the school record. But ironically, it was that event that gave her a bit of trouble last Friday at Maryland. Baldovino lost her balance performing a switch ring leap, a tricky dance element that requires a gymnast to hit a split position in the air while simultaneously dropping her head back, thus losing sight of the beam.
“I did feel a little more pressure to show up again and perform as well as I did [in previous weeks],” Baldovino said. “I fell on beam for the first time in the season, and when that did happen I felt like I had let down the team. Maybe falling was actually healthy for my mindset because it took a lot of pressure off of me. It put a fire under me to work hard in the gym to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
The positive team dynamics have helped Baldovino adjust this season and spur her to success. The Bulldogs won ECACs for the first time in program history last season and have enjoyed a similar level of success this year as they look to repeat.
The Elis won the Ivy Classic two weekends ago, with a total score that broke 195, the team’s highest of the year. That success speaks to a depth that extends far beyond Baldovino’s individual excellence.
“[Baldovino] brings a lot of positive energy and overall happiness into the gym, which is an amazing thing to have,” teammate Sloane Smith ’18 said.
Despite her tremendous achievements so far, Baldovino still has lofty ambitions for the rest of the season. She aspires to score a 9.900 on bars and qualify as an all-arounder for regionals and nationals, as well as breaking the school record beam score again with a 9.95, inching closer and closer to the ever-elusive perfect 10.00.
She has three more chances to reach those scores over break as the Elis travel to meets against the University of New Hampshire, Brown and then at ECACs, as the Bulldogs look to defend their crown.
Baldovino was the 2017 Junior Olympic national silver medalist on beam.
Raymond Gao | email@example.com