Steve Musco

This past weekend, the Yale gymnastics team set a new school record for an opening weekend score — starting its season with a narrow win at a quad meet hosted by the University of Bridgeport. The Bulldogs garnered a team score of 193.775, topping Bridgeport’s 193.750 points.

“In our first meet of the season, our goals usually center around getting back into the groove of competing, receiving a realistic report from the judges about our routines and showing off all of our hard work from preseason practices,” captain Kiarra Alleyne ’19 said. “So, I think being able to compete so well this weekend and winning by such a small margin was exhilarating and showed us that we have the potential to be great this season!”

As defending ECAC Champions for two years in a row, the Bulldogs opened their season fittingly. Though the program graduated two competition-caliber routines with Meg Ryan ’18 and Sloane Smith ’18, they have added 12–14 new ones in new and returning members of the team. The depth of the squad was evident, with many gymnasts performing routines in exhibition — routines that are not part of the competition lineup but are scored by the judges as if they were. The appearance of a routine in exhibition often precedes the addition of the routine into the competition lineup.

Like last year, the team’s strength on the balance beam was evident — all six competition routines were performed without a fall. While team totals on most events were significantly lower than last year’s peaks, which is to be expected for the first meet of the season, the team’s score of 48.350 on vault was in line with last year’s average, indicating that the Elis have made improvements in the apparatus which was a relative weakness last year. This season, several gymnasts have begun to train Yurchenko layout full vaults, which have a difficulty value of 9.95 and could further boost vault scores for the Elis.

Last weekend, Lindsay Chia ’22 made her competitive debut for the Bulldogs, notching a 9.55 for her precise work on the uneven bars. Chia, a former elite gymnast in Canada, has incredible potential as an all-around performer. Depending on injuries and whether she can perform to the best of her ability this season, it is plausible that Chia could follow in the footsteps of Jacey Baldovino ’21 and Jade Buford ’20 to be Yale’s third ECAC Rookie of the Year in a row.

“It was an incredible experience being with my team,” Chia said. “I knew [they] would cheer and support me no matter what happened, which is very different from the club gymnastics atmosphere. It was a bit of an unexpected win since I knew this was our season opener and it was a quad meet. However it was so exciting to win my very first college meet, and I can’t wait for the rest of season!”

Her potential notwithstanding, Chia did not perform on any apparatus other than uneven bars, even in exhibition. The absence of Chia’s routines certainly reaffirms the depth of Yale gymnastics, but it also raises concerns. Chia confirmed that she had suffered an ankle sprain just before the team’s first meet and was able to avoid further aggravation of the injury by avoiding the high-impact events of vault, beam and floor.

Secondary to her all-around capabilities, Chia is an especially valuable asset to the Elis’ beam and floor lineups. These two much-anticipated routines could become highlights of the Elis’ lineup.

Assistant coach Jason Collins also made his NCAA coaching debut this past weekend. As the program’s third assistant coach in three years, Collins brings a wealth of experience to Yale, having worked with current World and Olympic gymnastics all-around champion Simone Biles. Prior to joining the Elis, Collins was the co-founder, vice president and chief athletic officer at EVO Athletics in Sarasota, Florida. He played a major role in securing EVO as the temporary training facility of the U.S. National Women’s Gymnastics team.

Collins earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Juilliard and a Master of Music from the Curtis Institute and was a professional opera singer for 15 years before transitioning to gymnastics coaching. Collins has performed across the globe and produced recordings which are now archived in the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library.

“Personally, as my debut in the NCAA and more importantly at Yale, I cannot be more thankful to be part of the legacy that the [head coach Barbara] Tonry [coaches] have established,” Collins said. “I’m equally thankful for the entire athletic staff, personnel and also the athletic administration for the incredible support they have given me to be here.”

The Bulldogs compete at home for the first time this season on Saturday, facing Ivy rival Penn at 1 p.m.

Raymond Gao | raymond.gao@yale.edu