NEW HAVEN, Conn. – While the majority of their peers continue to enjoy the winter holiday, the Yale gymnastics team is hard at work in Payne Whitney Gymnasium putting the finishing touches on routines. After placing fourth at the Ivy Classic and seventh at the ECAC Championship in 2011, the Bulldogs are eager to move up in the rankings in 2012. The addition of assistant coach Jason Vonk and four talented freshmen as well as the start of a new weight-training program has the captain and coaches predicting a successful season.
"Jason has been amazing this year—his energy is contagious, and his experience in the sport is evident. He makes us very efficient in practice and knows exactly where to push us, which I think is very important," commented captain Mia Yabut.
"This is one of the hardest working teams in a very long time. We're excited about the prospect of this year's competitions in our quest for the Ivy Title," said head coach Barbara Tonry, who is in her 39th season coaching the team.
The team welcomed four new gymnasts in the fall, more than making up for the loss of the sole member of the class of 2011, Sherry Yang. Yabut could not stress enough the talent of the freshman class.
"This year's team is especially exciting because of our newfound depth—the freshmen are bringing in much-needed difficulty on bars and vault. Seeing these skills being put into routines every day motivates the upperclassmen to work harder and to maintain the same level of difficulty as the freshmen," said Yabut.
Of the four freshmen, Brianna Chrisman, Joyce Li and Morgan Traina should all make an immediate impact as potential all-arounders. The fourth freshman, Katherine Lucas, is currently recovering from shoulder surgery. Lucas should be back on at least the vault, and will return to the other events as she rehabilitates.
"The freshman class will definitely be contributing to higher scores," added Coach Tonry. "They will undoubtedly raise the level of competition on our team."
Yale also returns a solid sophomore class, albeit one that has been plagued by injuries. Ashley O'Connor, who placed 12th on beam at last year's ECAC championship, continues to recover from injuries. The coaches note that O'Connor has made significant improvements since last season, and they believe she should add both floor and bars to her repertoire this season. Tabitha Tay should have an immediate impact on beam and floor, and her twin sister Nicole Tay should contribute on the uneven bars as she continues to recover from an ankle injury. The coaches expect both twins to be back in the all-around competition as the season progresses. The fourth member of the sophomore class, Maren Hopkins, is currently recovering from injuries but could contribute on at least beam before the season is up. Hopkins stepped up as an all-arounder in her rookie season and placed 15th on beam at the ECAC Championship.
The junior class will continue to be an essential component of the team. Lindsay Andsager was the team's top bar worker last year, and the coaches expect her to be back in the position this year. Andsager, known for her long lines and exciting release moves, placed third and fifth on the uneven bars at the Ivy Classic and the ECAC Championships, respectively. Stephanie Goldstein and Tara Feld, both all-arounders, will strongly contend for line-up spots on all four events and will be part of the upperclassmen leading the team. Both gymnasts received Yale's Outstanding Contribution Award for their performance last year. Goldstein competed in the all-around at every meet but one in the 2011 season and consistently placed in the all-around. Though Feld's 2011 season was cut short by an injury, she is fully healed and prepared to be a top contributor, especially on the vault and floor exercise.
The team has two returning seniors. Talis Trevino, a crowd favorite on the floor exercise, should continue to post high scores on the event. Trevino is also a contender on vault and bars. Last year Trevino competed vault, bars and floor for the Bulldogs at every meet, and she tied for third on floor at the Ivy Classic with a career-high 9.8. Captain Mia Yabut is finally healthy and should be an all-around contender for the first time in her Yale career. Yabut came back from injuries at the end of the 2011 and was able to contribute on bars and vault.
"We already have enough depth to make each meet a competition for spots in our line-up. After seeing the girls train this past month, I really believe we can win Ivies. It'll be an interesting season to be sure," said Yabut.
The season is set to kick off on Jan. 22, when the Bulldogs meet Brockport at host Springfield College for a tri-meet. Last year the Bulldogs defeated Springfield 175.875-171.15 in a dual meet, although Yale fell the following weekend to Brockport 184.15-179.5 at a quad-meet hosted by Ithaca.
The first home meet for the Bulldogs is also the team's Ivy opener and the first of three Yale-Penn match-ups for the season—Yale will face Penn on Jan. 28. On Feb. 4 the Bulldogs travel to the New Hampshire Invitational, a tri-meet between Yale, New Hampshire and Brown.
Feb. 11 and Feb. 18 will see two consecutive weeks of home meets. Feb. 11 is the Bulldog Invitational, which will feature Bridgeport, Rhode Island College and Springfield alongside Yale. The following weekend, the Bulldogs will play host to local rival SCSU. Last year, Yale bested SCSU 187.45-185.85 in what was a season-high team score for the Bulldogs.
Cornell will host the 2012 Ivy Classic on Feb. 26. The following three weekends coincide with Spring Break and include a heavy travel schedule for Yale. Mar. 2 the team will travel to Towson to face William and Mary and Bridgeport. Mar. 8 the Bulldogs will travel to the George Washington Invitational, and Mar. 16 the team will be at Towson alongside Penn and George Washington.
The ECAC Championship will take place Mar. 24 in Philadelphia. Should any Yale gymnasts qualify, the NCAA Regional Championships will take place in Raleigh, N.C., on Mar. 31.
Report filed by Margaret Greenberg '12, Yale Sports Publicity