For the first time since 2005, three Yale gymnasts are eligible for the NCAA regional qualifiers for the National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships. Last week, the trio of Elis — Jacey Baldovino ’21, Jade Buford ’20 and Jessica Wang ’19 — were selected by the NCAA to compete at the Northeast regionals on Saturday at Penn State.
The three Yale gymnasts have been stalwarts this season, leading the Elis to their highest-scoring season ever. As a team, the Bulldogs this season secured an Ivy title as well as their second straight ECAC Championship. Baldovino and Buford qualified in the all-around competition, however, Baldovino is unable to compete this weekend due to injury. Wang, who has been scoring for the Bulldogs on the balance beam and uneven bars, will compete on the bars at regionals.
“It feels surreal and like such a privilege to qualify for regionals,” Wang said. “To do so with Jade and Jacey makes it so much more exciting.”
Yale’s gymnasts will compete alongside full teams as well as other individual qualifiers. The field is comprised of six teams, four all-arounders and two individual specialists in each event.
Each of Yale’s selected gymnasts have enjoyed stellar seasons up to this point. Following the squad’s repeat title win at the ECAC championships, all three received conference recognition.
Buford, the reigning ECAC co-Rookie of the Year who took the league by storm last year, had an even more impressive sophomore campaign. Despite an injury scare at ECACs, she competed in every event and placed second in the all-around. She was awarded ECAC Athlete of the Year for her season-long success.
After missing all of last season with injury, Wang’s selection to regionals only cements the junior’s smashing comeback season. It is also her first trip to regionals. As a specialist for Yale this year, Wang has consistently scored over 9.800 in both bars and beam. In uneven bars, the only event in which she will be competing at regionals, she achieved a career high of 9.900 earlier this season.
“I’m a little nervous going into the meet but we’ve just been training like we normally do throughout the season,” Wang said. “Our goal is to just go out there and perform to the best of our ability and let what happens happen.”
Baldovino, a seven-time winner of ECAC Rookie of the Week, was named the ECAC Rookie of the Year after persevering through an injury she suffered the meet. Despite dealing with a lower-leg injury, the first-year phenom landed key scores on bar and beam that were critical to the Elis’ triumph. But because of the injury, Baldovino will be unable to compete on Saturday.
“I am not competing this weekend, but I am still traveling with Jade and Jess to support them,” Baldovino said. “They are both such talented and hardworking gymnasts. All they need to do is breathe, focus and do what they do in practice and they’ll do amazing.”
To advance to the national championship held in St. Louis, Buford will need to finish among the top two all-around competitors at the regional competition. Wang will need to win her event in order to receive a berth to nationals. For the teams, the top two finishers out of the six competitors — Arizona State, Florida, New Hampshire, Penn State, Washington and West Virginia — will advance to compete against the other regional winners on April 20–21.
Although only Buford and Wang will compete this Saturday, the entire team will compete next week at the USA Gymnastics Collegiate Championship on April 13.
Brian Yeo | firstname.lastname@example.org