GYMNASTICS: High-scoring gymnasts head to nationals

Staff Reporter

The Yale gymnastics team has much to be proud of and much to look forward to as it prepares for its final competition of the year, the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships.

This season, the Bulldogs defended their Ivy Classic title from 2018, achieved three of the 10 highest team scores in program history and earned the highest regional qualifying score of any Yale gymnastics team ever — a 194.460. When the Elis travel to Bridgeport for nationals on Friday, their main objective is to qualify for the team final. Using rankings at the end of the regular season, No. 51 Yale is slated to compete in the first subdivision of the semifinal against No. 36 Lindenwood, No. 53 Air Force and No. 61 West Chester. From the semifinal, two teams will advance to the team final on Saturday.

“We had a couple weeks off after ECACs to rest,” Lindsay Chia ’22 said. “But right now, practices are a little harder and more focused on perfecting our routines. We really want to end our season on a high note and hopefully qualify to the second day of nationals.”

With key scorers captain Kiarra Alleyne ’19 and Jacey Baldovino ’21 sidelined by injury, Yale will not face Lindenwood at full strength. The Lions qualified and competed as a team at last Thursday’s regional stage of the NCAA gymnastics championship, a separate series of competitions from the USA Gymnastics Collegiate championship. At the regional, Lindenwood lost some of its steam from the regular season, dropping below a team score of 195.000 for the first time in five weeks to finish at 194.750, a score the Bulldogs topped twice during the regular season.

If Lindenwood can regain its focus heading into nationals, the Bulldogs’ hopes of qualifying to the team final realistically rest on capturing second place in their semifinal group. To do so, however, the Elis must fend off a challenge by Air Force, which was ranked just two spots below them at the end of the regular season. The Falcons have momentum on their side. In their last team competition, the MPSF Championships, the Falcons upset No. 39 UC Davis with a massive team score of 195.725 to take the conference title. This was their highest score of the season, and it eclipses Yale’s best mark of 195.100.

Friday’s competition will also serve as qualifications for individual apparatus finals on Sunday, where Jessica Wang ’19, the 2018 USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Champion on uneven bars, will seek to defend her title. Baldovino, last year’s silver medallist, is unlikely to compete.

Earlier this month, Wang qualified for NCAA regionals as an individual uneven bar specialist. In contrast to the USA Gymnastics Nationals, in which only Division I, II and III schools with less than 7.5 full athletic scholarships compete, the NCAA championships are open to top-ranked gymnastics programs throughout the country, which support up to twelve athletic scholarships annually.

“It’s a huge honor,” assistant coach Jason Collins said. “To [qualify to NCAA regionals] and have her career high during [her] senior year is all an amazing story.”

This is the second year in a row Wang has qualified to NCAA regionals. Prior to last year, the last time any Yale gymnast qualified to regionals was in 2010.

This past Friday, Wang competed in the second subdivision of the Athens NCAA regional hosted by the University of Georgia, where she faced off against athletes from No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 11 UC Berkeley, No. 30 Maryland and No. 28 NC State, as well as other top individuals. She performed on the uneven bars in the second rotation of the meet, following performances from Oklahoma for its team competition. The Bulldog senior scored an 8.850 following a few mistakes — a score uncharacteristic for the bars stalwart, who has scored 9.850 or higher five times this season, including a 9.925, which is the highest bars score in school history.

“[Wang] was competing as a individual at the end of the number one seeded [Oklahoma’s] lineup, which is in itself intimidating,” head coach Barbara Tonry said. “Her warm up routines were excellent but the competition routine was a little off, resulting in her trying to recover an earlier miscalculation. I am sure with this week’s practice, she will be ready to defend her USA Collegiate national championship uneven bar title.”

Wang was also the 2016 USA Gymnastics National Champion on balance beam.

Raymond Gao |