Sam Rubin

In front of a home crowd at the Don Tonry Invitational, the Yale gymnastics team took second to Bridgeport, recording a total score of 193.175 and showing a clear strength on floor exercise despite a subpar beam rotation.

On Saturday, the Purple Knights secured first place with a score of 194.200, avenging their narrow loss to the Bulldogs at the invitational last year by a margin of 194.275–194.225. Southern Connecticut State and Springfield College also competed at the quad meet and took third and fourth place, respectively.

The Bulldogs bested Bridgeport by a razor-thin margin of 0.025 points earlier in the season and led the field after two rotations on Saturday due to a weak beam rotation by the Purple Knights. However, Yale lost its lead due to some troubles of its own on beam which included three consecutive falls.

“On beam, [our performance] was uncharacteristic,” assistant coach Jason Collins said. “[The gymnasts] had just come from a really high bars rotation — probably one of the highest bars scores of the season. We try to say you have to leave the good with the good just like you have to leave the bad with the bad. I think they were riding on a high a little bit rather than getting grounded and [thinking] we have another event to do.’”

The Elis delivered some exceptional performances on all four events. On vault, Carly Israel ’20 made her season debut on the event, recording a 9.425 for her tidy Yurchenko layout. Rebecca Chong ’20 and Charlotte Cooperman ’21 recorded the highest vault scores for the Bulldogs on Saturday, both 9.675. Chong presented a strong Yurchenko with half twist, nearly sticking the landing but eventually resorting to a tiny hop forward at the end. Meanwhile, Cooperman vaulted the more difficult Yurchenko full twist but took a lunge backward to control her landing.

On the uneven bars, Lindsay Chia ’22 scored a season high of 9.800, showing precise handstand positions in her pirouettes along with a unique and difficult dismount. A pair of seniors, Roxie Trachtenberg ’19 and Jessica Wang ’19, achieved the highest bars scores for Yale, both a 9.825. Like Chia, both showed great body alignment and extension in their exercises. Trachtenberg executed an impressive double layout dismount while Wang, the 2018 USA Collegiate National Champion on the uneven bars, anchored the Eli lineup for the event.

Beam was the only event on which the Bulldogs faced significant challenges, but, even so, there were several highlights. Cooperman assumed the leadoff position for Yale on the event, scoring a 9.600 for a secure routine. In the ending position, Jacey Baldovino ’21 reminded observers why she holds the school record on balance beam with one of her characteristically elegant routines, for which she earned the highest beam score of the entire meet, a 9.800. Her performance ended on a high note with a stuck cat leap to gainer full dismount. Chia has been limited to the uneven bars thus far due to a nagging ankle injury, but her appearance in exhibition signals that she could become a key contributor in the beam lineup in the coming weeks.

“It felt so great being back on the beam, which is my favorite event,” Chia said. “[It’s also] the one where I’m most confident so it feels a bit like being home again.”

On floor, the Bulldogs scored a team total of 48.900, showing their consistency after posting results of 48.925 and 48.950 in the previous two weeks. Baldovino returned to the floor lineup for the first time since she injured her plantar fascia last season, scoring 9.625 for some impressive tumbling, including a double pike. Captain Kiarra Alleyne ’19 was the last Eli performer on floor and earned the highest floor score of the competition, a 9.900.

This weekend’s meet honored Yale athletics legend Don Tonry — the late husband of head coach Barbara Tonry — who passed away in 2013 after a battle with multiple sclerosis. He was a member of the team that represented the United States in men’s gymnastics at the 1960 Olympics, after which he eventually came to Yale as an instructor of physical education. From 1974 to 1980, Tonry transformed what was then the Yale gymnastics club into a varsity men’s NCAA team that won three Ivy titles over its short lifespan.

In the early days of Yale coeducation, Tonry was also crucial to the inception of Yale’s women’s, and now only, varsity gymnastics team. When women first approached Tonry with the idea of forming a team, he could not serve as their coach due to existing obligations, so he instead called upon his future wife Barbara Galleher, who now coaches the Bulldogs in her 46th season.

“I said ‘I don’t think so’ because [we] weren’t recruiting [at the time], it was just whoever was here at Yale,” Barbara Tonry said. “But I came up and I just fell in love with [the gymnasts] because they were tough — we didn’t do a lot of difficulty, but we looked good and we started winning. If it [weren’t] for my husband caring about the women coming up, we would never have had gymnastics here. It didn’t matter because he just loved the sport. [His attitude influenced] how I felt about gymnastics and how everyone else felt. [The meet today] is very meaningful.”

The Bulldogs travel to George Washington University this Friday, where they will compete in their second away meet of the season.

Raymond Gao | raymond.gao@yale.edu