This past Saturday, the Yale gymnastics team travelled to Penn State for a quad meet, where the No. 49 Bulldogs held their own against host No. 27 Penn State, No. 21 Arizona State and No. 56 Cornell. The Elis recorded the highest beam total among all the teams at the meet, besting even the highly ranked Nittany Lions and Sun Devils.

Despite a couple setbacks, one of which was having to include a fall within the five uneven bars performances that count in the team total, the Elis achieved their third highest final score of the season, a 194.100. This score was good for fourth place. But the Elis were disappointed to finish behind the Big Red, who they had bested by more than a point in the Ivy Classic two weekends ago.

“We did have a few setbacks, but we overcame them by sticking together and keeping our energy up the whole meet,” Becca Chong ’20 said. “We do our best when we’re cheering for each other and having a good time and that’s what we try to do every meet. Overall, the meet went well. Despite the setbacks we still managed to pull out another 194 with some great routines.”

The Bulldogs started the competition on floor, where they kept the exact same lineup and order from two weekends ago. Emma Firmstone ’20 was the first Eli to compete, providing a strong foundation for the rotation with a score of 9.725. Later in the lineup, Chong wowed audiences with an engaging performance, sticking each of her tumbling passes to contribute a 9.700 to the team total. Floor stalwarts Alyssa Firth ’21 and captain Kiarra Alleyne ’19 rounded out the Yale floor lineup, each scoring a 9.775 to tie as the top scorer for the Bulldogs.

Yale then moved to the vault, where perennial lead-off Anna Jennings ’20 did not disappoint, recording a 9.675 for her consistent Yurchenko tucked full — a vault in which she enters the vault table backward and performs a backflip with a full twist before landing. In the second stage of her all-around campaign, Jade Buford ’20 hit her front handspring front pike vault to tie Jennings’ score. As the last Bulldog vaulter, Firth’s Yurchenko layout full exercise gave her the highest Bulldog score on her second event of the day, another 9.775.

On the uneven bars, Buford continued the momentum from her first two events, kicking the Elis off with a solid score of 9.725 and showing a sky-high full-in double tuck dismount. Kendal Toy ’22 followed Buford with a well-deserved career high score of 9.750. Toy only entered the competition bar lineup four weeks ago, previously performing only as an exhibition. In her short time competing as a Bulldog, her confidence on the apparatus has noticeably increased. Despite some minor issues with not quite reaching perfect handstand positions, Toy stuck her double tuck dismount with no trouble.

Jessica Wang ’19, the reigning USA Gymnastics Collegiate national uneven bars champion, did not disappoint in her bars performance either, scoring a 9.850 to earn fourth place across the entire meet. This keeps her in a strong position to qualify for the NCAA regional competition in early April as an uneven bars specialist, which she achieved last year by recording a regionals qualifying score (RQS) of 9.840.

“We didn’t have our best bar rotation, but still wanted to fight for a solid team score,” Charlotte Cooperman ’21 said. “Beam came down to everyone being confident in their routines and our whole team knowing that we could put together a great rotation to finish the meet off strong.”

Heading into its final event, the beam, Yale trailed third-place Cornell by 0.925 points, a margin they would tighten but not fully close. This was despite all six beam routines being free of a major mistake, which the Bulldogs achieved for only the third time this season. Cooperman led off on the event, scoring a 9.725, which Buford followed with a 9.700 to close her all-around competition with a total score of 38.750 across four events. Firmstone was next, performing confidently to earn a 9.800, her highest this season. Anchor Jacey Baldovino ’21, who holds the school record score on the balance beam, showed her pedigree with a tidy routine which scored a 9.850, landing her in the top spot among all competitors. With a team total of 48.975, the Elis bested each of their rival teams on the event.

As of late February, Yale ranks 49th in the NCAA team rankings and the top 36 teams get a bid to NCAA regionals. While their team total of 194.100 this past Saturday was good, last year’s 36th and final qualifier to regionals achieved an average score of 195.415 throughout the season. The Bulldogs have three more chances to bump up their average score over spring break.

“Though the team approached tough competition this weekend, their hard work and resilience truly shined,” assistant coach Jason Collins said. “We are approaching a point in season where we need to remove the fear of failure and replace it with an unwavering confidence in our capabilities as one, cohesive unit.”

The Bulldogs travel to New Hampshire this Friday to meet the Wildcats head-to-head in a dual meet. Yale’s season record against UNH currently sits at 0–2.

Raymond Gao | raymond.gao@yale.edu