The Yale gymnastics team has had a near-flawless start to its 2020 campaign. After defeating Brockport on Sunday — setting a new season-high total in the process — the Bulldogs have won four out of their five meets this year, including the last three in a row.

While the Elis’ success is certainly a product of the team’s efforts overall, captain Emma Firmstone ’20 has been a key reason for their hot momentum, leading from the front with some inspiring performances.

The Pennsylvania native has been an integral part of the Yale squad since she first arrived in New Haven. She has been a consistently high scorer and was a member of the ECAC Division One Academic All-Team — a reflection of her ability to balance the high demands of the sport with excellent academics. As a result, she was a perfect fit for the role of captain going into the current season.

“In previous years the captain was always someone that I looked up to, so I am trying to be someone that others can emulate in the gym,” Firmstone said. “I am constantly aware of how I act in and out of the gym and how it will affect the team. Despite the challenges, it really has been an honor. This is a great team with so many amazing individuals and I feel so lucky to not only be the captain but to also just be a part of something that is this special.”

In her first year, Firmstone achieved numerous personal milestones. These included a career high on vault at the national semifinals (9.675), as well as a career high on beam at George Washington University (9.850), which tied for third place in Yale gymnastics history. Going into her second year, she placed second at the Ivy Classic — earning a career high on floor (9.875) — and was part of the ECAC all-around team.

Overall, Firmstone has earned seven event title wins on beam and floor, including a near-perfect 9.900 ECAC champion beam routine in her junior year. Her role in the beam lineup proved crucial on their journey to holding the top nine beam team scores in program history. Most importantly, she was a member of the first ever Yale team to win the ECAC championship in 2017.

“I have been Emma’s teammate for four years now and it has been an honor to see her grow and mature into the woman she is today,” senior Anna Jennings ’20 said. “From coaching changes, assignment difficulty, academic challenges, and the college gymnastics transition — she has always put on a mindset of calmness. She truly knows how to keep her composure in the midst of uncertainty and I think that has been the most amazing presence for our team in the last four years. Her laugh is the most contagious thing and she always keeps a lighthearted spirit in the gym while we train towards our goals throughout the season.”

Although 2020 is her final year at Yale, the captain has not let the emotional significance of this campaign affect her routines. Instead, Firmstone has continued to excel, with notable performances including an astounding first-place finish on beam at the Springfield quad-meet, accomplished before achieving a career high of 9.825 in the same event to clinch top spot at the Don Tonry Invitational.

“I know as I look back on my career at Yale I will remember the successes we have had as a team over the years, from winning Ivy titles to our first ECAC championship in school history,” Firmstone said. “What I am even more grateful for, however, are all of the lessons that I have learned on the path to get where I am today. I have made so many incredible memories over the past four years with this team, due in large part to my wonderful classmates. It has been an incredible four years with this class and this team.”

Although Yale won the ECAC championship two years in succession, the Blue and White agonizingly lost its crown to Temple University in 2019. Nevertheless, Firmstone hopes to take back the title this season, with the senior class personally motivated to make it an astonishing three conference championships in four years. The senior class has also won two Ivy Classic team titles, in addition to a total of 30 event titles and 74 competition victories.

“Winning the Ivy Classic and ECACs are always our two main team goals for the season,” Firmstone added. “I think that missing the ECAC championship by a small margin last year has motivated us even more to win the title back this year. The Ivy League and the ECAC are filled with a lot of talent, but if we go into the meet and hit our routines to the best of our ability, I think that we have a great shot at the titles.”

The high expectations of this squad do not seem to faze the captain, who keeps on delivering for the team. So long as the Pennsylvania native continues to motivate her teammates — as she has done for the whole season — then the Elis will be confident that they can win the Ivy League and the coveted ECAC title.

The Bulldogs will set their sights on their next event against Pittsburgh and Towson on Feb. 15, with the away meet kicking off at 2 p.m.

 

 

Syimyk Kyshtoobaev | syimyk.kyshtoobaev@yale.edu