Marisa Peryer

In its first dual meet of the season, the Yale gymnastics team defeated Ivy-rival Penn by a margin of 193.775–192.350 to capture its second win in as many weeks and its first victory at John J. Lee Amphitheater this season.

Despite the triumph, the Elis were uncharacteristically shaky on the balance beam, losing more than four tenths off their score from last week for a team total of 48.175 in the event. Yale made up for the majority of this loss with an improved performance on floor exercise, eventually securing the exact same overall meet score as last week.

“I just told them not to make me that nervous again,” head coach Barbara Tonry joked. “Beam was great last week. This week, it was not. They didn’t train as well this week when school started back. I just think they need to get back in the groove again of school and practice.”

As NCAA gymnasts readjust to the rhythm of weekly competitions, team totals often rise consecutively for several weeks over the first few meets of the season. Though it is not necessarily worrisome for the Bulldogs that they were only able to tie their score from last week, it does reveal the one thing that could prevent te Bulldogs from reaching last year’s dominance, and the one thing that could hold them back this year: the beam.

With a lineup featuring the school record-holder on balance beam, Jacey Baldovino ’21, as well as the 2016 USA Collegiate Gymnastics Champion on the event, Jessica Wang ’19, the beam rotation often buoys Yale when it slips on other events. Yet relying on a piece of leather-bound wood 10 centimeters wide can be as precarious as it sounds.

At Maryland last year, a week after capturing the 2018 Ivy League title with a score of 195.025, the Bulldogs only managed to pull together a score of 192.900. This was largely due to a drop of 0.950 in their week-to-week balance beam score — the largest drop in any of the four apparatuses. In no way was this past weekend’s underwhelming beam rotation as devastating as the one in Maryland, but the Elis will be keen to not let it be a harbinger of what is to come.

Although specific Bulldogs can improve their form in some areas, the vast majority of this weekend’s mistakes were balance errors, among them big balance corrections on acrobatic elements across several routines as well as small adjustments after basic full turn skills. While this accumulation was damaging for Yale, the team’s best score of the day came from Jade Buford ’20, whose routine included what looked like an impressive and seamless cover-up of a loss of balance.

Notwithstanding Yale’s trouble on beam, there were several highlights on the other apparatuses. Wang made her debut on vault for the year, performing a Yurchenko layout for 9.525 points. This marks Wang’s first return to vaulting since she tore her Achilles tendon in the winter of 2016 and is a step toward achieving her goal of making it back into the all-around category championships in her senior season and finishing her gymnastics career to the very best of her ability, Wang told the News last April. In general, vault is perennially Yale’s weakest event, which shows in the team’s relatively low start value on the event, less-than-crisp form and, most clearly, in the rarity of stuck landings.

Tonry confirmed that a long-term goal of the team is to raise start values on vault. However, she emphasized that the current priority is to have gymnasts perfect the vaults they already can do.

“We’ve got to get rid of those steps [on landing],” Tonry said. “Every time, it’s another tenth off.”

But on floor, the Bulldogs put on a resounding performance. Yale gymnasts showed some impressive tumbling, including a front layout double full connected to a front tuck by Alyssa Firth ’21 as well as a double Arabian by Becca Chong ’20, who notched the highest floor score of the day. Buford, the Bulldogs’ sole performer on all four apparatuses on Saturday, anchored the floor lineup and scored a 9.725.

On bars, Yale faltered with a couple of mistakes in the touch warm-up but was able to pull through with a solid rotation when the scores counted. Baldovino began her routine beautifully, hitting her piked Jaeger with more amplitude than in the warm-up but arched over on a pirouette before her dismount combination and came off the bars. Fortunately, the other five performers hit their routines, and Baldovino’s score was dropped from the final tally. Also noteworthy was the performance of Lindsay Chia ’22. Chia fell on a full pirouette in the warm-up but hit her routine, including a rare and difficult dismount in the competition for a score of 9.650.

“[I felt] really good [about my bars routine],” Chia said. “I was really proud of it. Hopefully, by next week, I’ll be able to add in one more event- — either beam or vault.”

The Bulldogs return home to compete against New Hampshire this Sunday at 1 p.m.

Raymond Gao | raymond.gao@yale.edu