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Yale Gymnastics Beats Big Ten's Rutgers, Makes History in Season Opener

The 2019 Yale gymnastics team.
The 2019 Yale gymnastics team.

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - The Yale gymnastics team experienced incredible success in the first meet of the 2019 season at Bridgeport, earning a team score of 193.775. This is the highest score Yale has had in a season opener in school history. The Purple Knights followed Yale with a 193.750. Rutgers of the Big Ten earned third place with 193.175. SCSU took fourth, posting a 190.275 team score. The Bulldogs' placement shows a fantastic sign of what is to come for this 2019 team.

"This team had an outstanding start to their season. With only two weeks to prepare after the holidays, they exceeded my expectations. Of course, we have detail work and endurance to practice, but I could not be more proud of these women and the outstanding effort they put in their performance today," said head coach Barbara Tonry.

Yale's top finisher, junior Jade Buford, competed in the all-around for the third season in a row (38.650). Her score earned her first place, hitting a solid four-for-four events.

Balance beam was the best event of the day for the Bulldogs: they won this event, beating Rutgers and the two local teams while scoring a 48.6. Sophomore Charlotte Cooperman started the Bulldogs off strong, putting up a consistent and steady routine (9.7). Next, captain Kiarra Alleyne hit a solid beam set earning a 9.675. Junior Emma Firmstone kept the momentum going, hitting her routine (9.675). Buford and sophomore Jacey Baldovino were the top scorers for the Bulldogs, tying with a 9.675 and earning second place overall. Coming off an NCAA Regional appearance last season, senior Jessica Wang gave a solid performance with a 9.625. Exhibitions for the day included sophomore Alyssa Firth and junior Carly Israel.

The next event was floor exercise and Yale followed Bridgeport in the team standings, earning a 48.475. Three Yale gymnasts performed solid routines, each scoring a 9.700 or above. Firmstone delivered the lead-off routine for Yale. Cooperman followed with a huge routine, posting a 9.7. Junior Rebecca Chong made her debut for the day adding a massive double Arabian to the team score (9.7). Alleyne continued her energy from the previous event, showing off her new senior routine and hitting her floor set while scoring a 9.675. Firth delivered an incredible and clean set, coming away with an impressive score of 9.725. Wrapping up the floor exercise, Buford closed the event sticking her routine and showing off the new dance in her floor set (9.675). Exhibition for the meet was Baldovino.

The Bulldogs went to vault next, where Cooperman shined in finishing second overall with a score of 9.775. Junior Anna Jennings started strong as lead-off, posting a 9.4 with a full-twisting vault. Fellow junior Buford scored a 9.625 with a front entry vault. Senior Roxie Trachtenberg also competed a full-twisting yurchenko layout (9.575).  Chong performed a powerful yurchenko half, posting a 9.675. The rotation was rounded out by Firth, competing a huge yurchenko full and scoring a 9.7. Exhibitions of the event were Israel and sophomore Rowan Palmer, both competing yurchenko layouts.

"It felt amazing to be back competing again with this team. There was an insane amount of energy today and this is only the beginning. I cannot wait to see where we go from here as we get deeper into the season," said Israel.

The final event for the Bulldogs was the uneven bars. Yale took second to Bridgeport on this event. Lead-off Firth finished her fourth event of the day with a hit routine and incredible tkatchev release move. Buford put up a strong routine, continuing her all-around competition with a 9.575. Trachtenberg delivered a spectacular performance, earning an impressive 9.7. First-year Lindsay Chia made her collegiate debut, performing an outstanding bar set (9.55). Baldovino made the crowd go wild with her double back stuck dismount (9.7). USA Collegiate National bars champion Wang was the top scorer for the Bulldogs, sticking her dismount and earning a 9.775, sticking her full-twisting double back and placing her first overall. Beginning her collegiate career, first-year Kendal Toy hit her exhibition routine with a jaeger release move. Senior Mary Catherine Fletcher returned from last season's injury better than ever.

This also marked Yale's first meet with new assistant coach Jason Collins.

"There is nothing better than seeing a group of individuals come together for the betterment of the team. This team showed determination, fight and heart. We are building on a legacy, and as my debut in the NCAA and more importantly at Yale, I cannot be more thankful to Barbara and the entire athletic administration for the incredible support and opportunity they have given me to be here," said Collins.  

The Bulldogs look to build off the success from today's competition in the first home meet of the season against Penn next Sat., Jan. 19.

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report by Anna Jennings '20, Yale Sports Publicity