The Yale gymnastics team won another national title this weekend, and Jessica Wang ’19 was crowned the 2018 USA Women’s Gymnastics Collegiate National Champion on the uneven bars, an apparatus on which she has performed spectacularly all season.
She scored a 9.900 to earn the gold, accruing just 0.100 of deductions from her start value of 10.000, the maximum possible amount. Having previously won a national championship on balance beam in 2016, Wang has now a national title in two events, a testament to her versatility as a gymnast. The uneven bars is also a specialty for 2018 ECAC Freshman of the Year Jacey Baldovino ’21, who took home the silver on Sunday with a 9.850. Baldovino shared the silver with Schyler Jones of Texas Woman’s University (TWU), who captured the national all-around title.
“The draw for competition order in finals had [Baldovino] first on bars,” head coach Barbara Tonry said. “That is not a desired position as judges … are a little tight on first competitors. [Baldovino’s score] held through the entire bar [lineup] except for [the] score from [Wang]. National Champion and runner-up aren’t bad placements.”
The USA Gymnastics Collegiate Women’s Championships, which are contested only by Division I, II and III schools with less than 7.5 full athletic scholarships, are distinct from the NCAA National Gymnastics Championships. Teams that participate in the latter often offer up to 12 full athletics scholarships to their gymnasts. Yale does not offer athletic scholarships for any sport.
Three Elis qualified for individual event finals in the competition — Baldovino and Wang on the bars, and Becca Chong ’20 on the vault. After serving as the dependable anchor and the last gymnast to compete in Yale’s vault lineup for the entire 2017–18 season, Chong tied her season high of 9.825 in the semifinal round.
In the event final, Chong performed a solid Yurchenko half — a backward entry onto the vault table with a rotation in the air in straight body position and half turn before landing — to score 9.8125, for a fourth-place finish. The difficulty of this vault lies in its blind landing; a gymnast has no possibility of spotting the ground before her feet land to make adjustments. Despite this, Chong showed her mastery of the skill, maintaining pristine form in the air, with just a miniscule hop on her landing, all of which was reflected in her high score.
Baldovino, Chong and Wang qualified for their respective event finals by logging event scores in the top five during a qualification round on Friday against host TWU, Cornell and Brown. This qualification session also served another purpose, as one of two semifinals for the team competition, where the two highest-scoring teams advanced to the final. In the semifinal, Yale placed third behind TWU and the Big Red, ending its team run. TWU proceeded to win the team final, clinching its second-consecutive national title.
“It was a little disappointing to not make it to team finals,” Wang said. “But considering the obstacles we had to face both the day of the meet as well as throughout the season, we did our best and still came out with one of our highest scores this season.”
Although the Elis were disappointed not to advance to the team final, Charlotte Cooperman ’21 set a career-record beam score in the team semifinals, with a 9.800. The first year from Southborough, Massachusetts showed precision throughout her routine, which included an acrobatic series of a front aerial salto, a flip in the air, connected directly into a tucked-back salto. It concluded with a salto in piked position that served as her dismount, which she stuck.
The Bulldogs had to deal with emotion and drama right before the semifinal on Friday night. That day, Meg Ryan ’18 had to undergo an emergency appendectomy. Ryan has been a stalwart on the uneven bars this entire season and throughout her four years as an Eli.
“[Ryan] had an excellent chance to push for the uneven bar title,” Tonry said. “As a senior in her last meet having such an event… was devastating. But Megan wanted to continue to be with the team and cheer them on in spite of her own personal difficulties.”
In a special ceremony before the event finals on Sunday, Tonry was honored as the 2018 USA Gymnastics Collegiate Coach of the Year, an accolade she attributed to the great accomplishments of the entire team this season.
Despite not qualifying for the final team event, the Bulldogs notched the highest-ever semifinal score in the team’s history at the tournament this weekend.
“Nationals is a three-day, [non-stop], adrenaline rush,” Chong told Yale Sports Publicity. “Qualifying to event finals was so exciting. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to compete this weekend and represent Yale. It has been a season for the books.”
The Yale gymnastics team finished the season as ECAC and Ivy League champions.
Raymond Gao | email@example.com