Sporting Life

Winter sports highlights: 2017

Conference titles for two teams, and the first-ever Ivy hoops tournament.

Evan Frondorf ’14 is currently finishing a book on generic pharmaceuticals and drug pricing.

Courtesy ECAC

Courtesy ECAC

The gymnastics team celebrates winning the ECAC titleā€”its first in 45 years of competition. View full image

Women’s gymnastics

As the first—and so far only—head coach of Yale women’s gymnastics, Barbara Tonry has waited 45 years to win an ECAC conference championship. At this year’s championship meet in Providence on March 18, after her team finished competing, she had to wait a little longer. The Bulldogs were in the lead, but they still could have been overtaken by Brown or Temple. In the end, Yale posted a score of 194.600 out of a possible 200 to win its first title, beating out Cornell by just 0.15 points.

A number of underclassmen helped deliver the victory, including Jade Buford ’20, Yale’s only competitor in the all-around. Placing third individually, Buford was named ECAC co-Rookie of the Year after the meet. After the day’s first event—uneven bars—she knew Yale had a chance. “The first girl up [Anella Anderson ’17] hit really well and posted a high score,” she explains. “That really set the stage for us. And then one after the other, we all hit our routine.” Next up was balance beam, which Buford identified as a weak spot for the Bulldogs. But this meet was special. “The first girl hit and there was a clear tone,” she says. “No matter what, we weren’t coming off the beam.” Next came a season-best performance on the floor exercise and a strong performance on vault that put Yale atop the leaderboard.

Tonry’s team was thrilled, not least for their coach. “Everyone really wanted this. Barb has dedicated so many years to Yale gymnastics,” Buford says. “We wanted to do this for her.”

Women’s swimming and diving

After tasting success last year with a win in the HYP meet—their first in 19 years—the women’s swimming and diving team capped their rise to the top of the Ivies this season with their biggest win of all: an Ivy League title. It came two decades after Yale’s last championship. Fifth-year head coach Jim Henry leapt into Brown’s pool on February 18 to celebrate.

With 1,681 points to Harvard’s 1,590.5, the Bulldogs achieved the highest team score in the history of the Ivy championship meet. “Winning Ivies was one of those goals that we have been talking about for so long—since Jim recruited us, senior year of high school five years ago,” says Kina Zhou ’17, who was named Career High Point Swimmer after the meet.

Yale set 12 school records and 5 conference records during the four-day meet, but Harvard was a close competitor. The Bulldogs pulled away on the third day with multiple wins. Lilybet MacRae ’17 took the three-meter diving event and was named Career High Point Diver, and Yale won four of the five individual finals on the final evening. The meet ended with Yale setting an Ivy League record in the 4x100m freestyle relay. Zhou swam the opening leg. “I truly didn’t know we were going to win the meet for sure until that last relay touched the wall,” she says. But Yale touched the wall first, and the title belonged to the Bulldogs. Says Zhou, “It almost feels surreal that we finally accomplished it.”

Men’s basketball

After decades of awarding its NCAA Basketball Tournament bids to the regular-season champions, the Ivy League staged its first-ever postseason tournament this year, pitting the top four teams against each other for a trip to March Madness. With a third-place regular-season finish, the Yale men—who won the league and made the second round of the NCAA in 2016—made the cut.

The men’s tournament, held at Penn’s Palestra, easily provided the television-worthy drama the league desired. Yale beat Harvard 73–71 in a semifinal matchup, with help from 18 points by star freshman Miye Oni ’20. In the final, Yale met Princeton, who went undefeated in the Ivy regular season but faced an overtime scare from Penn in their own semifinal matchup. The Bulldogs played a strong opening half but could not keep up with increasingly hot shooting from the Tigers; Princeton went on to win the first Ivy tournament 71–59.

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