Yale Athletics

The Yale gymnastics team got off to a perfect start on Sunday, kicking off its 2020 season with a victory in the quad meet hosted by Springfield College.

The Bulldogs posted a score of 191.525 to see off Brown (189.275), Southern Connecticut State University (189.475) and Springfield (182.300). The result was reflective of the strong roster that head coach Barbara Tonry has built for the new season.

The Bulldogs had a highly successful campaign in 2019, achieving one of the highest team scores in the history of Yale Gymnastics (195.100), as well as winning the program’s 16th Ivy Classic team title. But after narrowly finishing runners up in the ECAC Championship Game to Temple University last year — which the Bulldogs won in 2017 and 2018 — the Elis were determined to open their slate with a win and make the first step towards taking back the title. Despite losing key seniors, including Jessica Wang ’19, who qualified for the NCAA regional championships on bars, Yale’s newest recruits had strong showings, with Raegan Walker ’23 sealing a 9.825 bar routine to clinch first place.

“After a year of recovery from my Achilles tear injury, competing on bars at my first collegiate competition was definitely an amazing experience,” Walker said. “I am so lucky to have such supportive teammates, coaches and trainers who continuously help me through my recovery process. This team is so special, and I am so excited to be competing alongside such a talented and committed group of gymnasts.”

The first years equally proved their value in other events. Aimee Titche ’23 made her vault debut for the Bulldogs and registered a 9.700 with a Yurchenko full twist, placing in a respectable third. This helped pave the way for the Elis to clinch an event win on vault with a team score of 48.325. Alyssa Firth ’21, who also performed a full-twisting Yurchenko, managed to clinch second with a stunning score of 9.750.

Walker and Titche were not the only ones enjoying their college debuts, as assistant coach Andrew Leis also had his first taste of college competition, having joined the team in the fall. Leis brings a wealth of experience to the role, having served as the NBC sports research statistician for USA Gymnastics for the last three Olympic Games. Prior to joining the Bulldogs, Leis graduated from UMass Amherst in 2002 with a degree in sports management, before going on to work at a private club, Daggett Gymnastics.

The hard work in the off season appeared to pay dividends as Yale equally impressed in floor exercise, with the top five scores totaling 48.625. The seniors lead by example, with Rebecca Chong ’20, Jade Buford ’20 and Sofia Menemenlis ’20 posting scores of 9.675, 9.650 and 9.600 respectively. Meanwhile, Charlotte Cooperman ’21 and Jacey Baldovino ’21 had outstanding performances finishing second and fifth with scores of 9.775 and 9.700. But it was Firth who stole the show winning the entire meet with a 9.825, in addition to being Yale’s top floor scorer.

“Overall I’m very happy with my performance at the meet,” Firth said. “I’m excited to get back into the gym to try to fix some details before our next meet. I’m already so proud of this team and know we have so much potential this year. Many of us share the same goals for the team and are determined to hit 24 for 24 routines at our meets, win Ivies, and ECACs.”

The fine performances continued on balance beam. In a repeat of last year’s season opener victory in the same event, Yale finished first with a team score of 48.325. Notable performances included Emma Firmstone ’20 who won the event with an astounding 9.775.

Additionally, Lindsay Chia ’22 and Cooperman produced exceptional performances — both receiving a score of 9.750 — to occupy second and third places.

“I’m proud of how the team performed last Sunday, but I know we have a lot more potential we haven’t yet reached,” Chia said. “We’ve been putting in more numbers in the gym and practicing our consistency under pressure to prepare for Bridgeport. I’m really excited for us to show it off in the next meet!”

Yale will travel to Bridgeport, Connecticut for its second meet of the season next weekend, competing against Brown and Rhode Island College, as well as the Purple Knights.


Syimyk Kyshtooaev | syimyk.kyshtooaev@yale.edu