In final routine, graduating Yale gymnast approaches perfection
In her last meet before the premature ending of the Ivy League gymnastics season in March, Jade Buford ’20 B.A. received a nearly perfect score on her floor routine as her teammates danced along with her choreographed poses on the sidelines.
The 9.925 score at the Feb. 23 Ivy Classic championship event at Cornell — earned by just one other Ivy gymnast last season — was a crowning achievement for the senior from Coppell, Texas, who had dislocated her shoulder that day during the warmup prior to the competition. “I wanted to leave it all on the floor,” she said of the 90-second routine, which involved a round off double pike, a full front layout, and a split jump.
Buford, a history of science, medicine, and public health major, remembers head coach Barbara Tonry pulling her aside just before she went out on the mat. “She said, ‘Just relax. Show them why you love gymnastics.’”
The resulting floor routine was high-spirited, full of joy, and hugely impressive to the judges.
Although the coronavirus pandemic put an end to spring athletics shortly after the Ivy Classic ended, it hasn’t stopped the team from remaining connected, Buford said. She and her teammates have weekly Facetime calls and Zoom meetings during which they play Scattergories and trivia. The team has invited incoming first-years to join some of the calls, welcoming them to the Bulldog team that Buford said has been like a family to her.
“Being part of the team has been one of my favorite experiences,” said Buford, who has been living at her family home in Huntersville, North Carolina since Spring Break. “It’s a group of 18 like-minded girls who care so much about the people with them. They work so hard to make sure everyone has a home away from home.”
And the pandemic has given Buford added incentive to pursue a path in epidemiology. She expects to begin a Master of Public Health program at Emory University in the fall.
“Emory is closely affiliated with the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” Buford said. “I want to have an impact — to have a hands-on experience with what is happening with the pandemic right now.”
After 19 years in gymnastics, Buford’s days as a competitor have come to an end, though she plans to still stay fit. To Yale’s incoming gymnasts and other students, she said: “Use every opportunity Yale gives you, and cherish every moment.”