PHILADELPHIA, P.A. - Yale gymnastics wrangled multiple impressive performances at the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division I Women's Gymnastics Championship Saturday, securing their title for the second-year in a row with a massive team score of 195.325. YGT 46 has shattered record books this 2018 season and looks to continue their streak as they head to the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships mid-April.
"This team is fantastic. They did such an outstanding job at the competition and I am so very proud of them. They have broken more records and won so many championships this past year that it will be hard to equal this in future years," said head coach Barbara Tonry.
The Yale gymnastics team made a big final push to post not only the highest team score this season, but in school history to earn their title. Finishing in second place was The College of William & Mary with a team score of 194.575 edging out the third-place team, Brown (194.025). Rounding out the field was host University of Pennsylvania (193.20), Cornell (193.150) and Temple (192.675).
During the awards ceremony the ECAC handed out yearly individual honors, as voted on by the head coaches. Yale cleaned up the awards ceremony, capturing the ECAC Rookie of the Year (Jacey Baldovino), the Athlete of the Year (Jade Buford) and first year Assistant Coach of the Year (James Williams). This makes it back-to-back years the Bulldogs won the Rookie of the Year award.
"I cannot think of a better way to end this conference season. This was an amazing competition to have going in to Nationals in two weeks," said Williams.
"I was so honored to receive the Rookie of the Year award! I owe all of my success to my incredible teammates, who always believe in me and encourage me to be confident as well as do my best every single routine," said Baldovino.
1. Yale: 195.325
2. William & Mary: 194.575
3. Brown: 194.025
4. Penn: 193.200
5. Cornell: 193.150
6. Temple: 192.675
Opening on floor, sophomore Sofia Menemenlis led off the Bulldogs to their championship win (9.550). Five Bulldogs finished with scores of 9.700 or higher sticking their three-pass floor sets. One of those was first-year Alyssa Firth posting a huge 9.775 hit floor routine. Senior Sloane Smith got the crowd energized with a score of 9.700, before junior Kiarra Alleyne notched a 9.775 with her upbeat floor music. Both sophomores Emma Firmstone and reigning rookie of the year, Jade Buford finished with marks of 9.825 or higher, ranking as two of the top five high scores on floor at the meet. Buford left her mark in the record books again this season, taking the second spot with her near-perfect floor set. The Bulldogs culminated a 49.000 on the event, the highest of all six teams.
Yale moved onto vault where first-year Rowan Palmer earned a career-high of 9.525 with a yurchenko layout. Firmstone in the number two spot remained consistent with a strong score of 9.650. This is a new season-high for the Pennsylvania native. Fellow sophomore Anna Jennings continued the momentum throughout this event posting a new season-high of 9.725 performing a yurchenko full. Buford competed her second event with a front-entry vault, matching Jennings' score of a 9.725. Firth tied her career-high of a 9.775 earning top five overall. Sophomore Rebecca Chong finished up the vault posting a 9.700, being the fourth Bulldog to earn a 9.700 or higher on this event. Team vault earned a total of 48.575, earning the third spot in the Yale record books for a team vault score.
Firmstone was the lead-off routine for the Bulldog bar lineup on the third event of the evening. She hit a solid bar set, posting a 9.425. Next up, junior Roxanne Trachtenberg tied her season high of a 9.725, contributing to Yale's team bar score of a 48.725. Athlete of the Year Buford stuck her third event, continuing her all-around competition (9.675). Catching all releases, Baldovino earned a 9.725, keeping the energy high for the Bulldogs. Senior Megan Ryan went out with a bang, sticking her double-layout dismount and making the crowd go wild (9.800). Junior Jessica Wang remained in the anchor spot, rounding out the third event for the Bulldogs earning a 9.800. Both Ryan and Wang stood together on the first-place podium on this apparatus.
Yale was in the first-place position as a team heading into their last event, the balance beam. This apparatus proved to be the Bulldogs' best event of the evening. First-year Charlotte Cooperman led the way for Yale on beam starting off with a 9.750. Alleyne joined Cooperman with an outstanding performance of a 9.775. Firmstone matched Cooperman and Alleyne earning a 9.775, leaving the crowd going wild at her stuck dismount. Buford had the second-highest score for the Bulldogs, highlighting the last event with an astounding beam routine (9.825). Wang put up an incredibly smooth beam set, earning a 9.675. Baldovino performed another near-perfect beam routine this season, sticking her dismount for a score of 9.900. This is second in the school record books, while Baldovino currently holds the top record spot as well. Yale's solid beam lineup did not disappoint, performing under pressure and recording a team score of 49.025. The Bulldogs won this event as a team as well.
Yale's balance was key, as they didn't count a score under a 9.650 as part of a tremendously consistent afternoon. The Bulldogs won three of the four events (floor, beam, bars) out of all six ECAC teams. Additionally, Yale hit 24 for 24 routines, concluding the entire meet without a fall.
Buford played a big role in helping Yale clinch back-to-back ECAC team titles. She finished second in the all-around competition with a total of 39.150, barely behind the all-around champion, Katie Waldman (39.200) of William & Mary. Taylor White of the Tribe completed the top three all-rounders with a score of 38.950.
"Our team has had numerous record-breaking, memorable performances this year. However, winning back-to-back ECAC championship titles is icing on the cake. I am honored to receive the ECAC Athlete of the Year award. I honestly could not have done it without the unwavering support from my teammates. I am so excited to see what Nationals holds for the team," said Buford.
This 2018 team is shattering the record books, holding:
- six out of the top 10 overall team scores
- six out of the top 10 team vault scores
- two out of the top 10 team bar scores
- four out of the top 10 team beam scores
- four out of the top 10 team floor scores
- five out of the top 10 individual all-around scores
39 team records have been broken this season. They are truly re-writing Yale gymnastics history.
YGT has continued their streak of being known as the 'Hipster Team' of the ECAC season, winning Ivy Classics and ECACs. Next, Yale will look to send representatives to the NCAA Regional Championships on Apr. 7 at Penn State before competing as a team to the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships from Apr. 13-15 in Texas.
2018 ECAC Postseason Awards
ECAC Scholar-Athletes of the Year
Anya Barca-Hall - Brown, Sr.
Kelsy Kurfisrt - Cornell, Jr.
Kyra Levi - Penn, Sr.
Madison Dwyer - College of William & Mary, Jr.
ECAC Rookie of the Year
Jacey Baldovino, Yale, Fy.
ECAC Specialist of the Year
Alex Hartke - Penn, Sr.
ECAC Gymnast of the Year
Jade Buford, Yale, So.
ECAC Assistant Coach of the Year
James Williams, Yale
ECAC Head Coach of the Year
Umme Salim-Beasley - Temple
report by Anna Jennings '20, Yale Sports Publicity