As a young child watching the Olympics, sophomore Dana Bonincontri knew right away gymnastics was the sport for her.
“I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen,” she recalled.
Having been encouraged by her parents to pursue numerous sports, Bonincontri ultimately chose to focus on gymnastics.
From first grade onward, Bonincontri steadily improved each year. A five-time Junior Olympics qualifier, she was crowned the 2009 Washington State Champion.
As Bonincontri prepared for the move to collegiate athletics, she knew Penn was the right school for her.
“I really wanted to get out of Washington,” she said.
However, her transition to Penn was far from smooth. Suffering from an early season injury, Bonincontri had to sit out the first five meets of last season.
Once healed, the then-freshman immediately began making a strong impact on the team, being named Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week after only the second meet of her college career.
“Dana is one of our strongest athletes,” assistant coach Corrinne Tarver said. “[She competes] at a very high level [of] gymnastics which is what we need as a team to help elevate the program.”
This year, she has built on the success of last year’s abbreviated season. She has earned at least one first-place finish in three of the Quakers’ last four meets and has secured two ECAC Gymnast of the Week awards.
Despite the personal attention, Bonincontri looks at gymnastics as a team endeavor.
“You function as a team when you’re counting the scores,” she said. “It’s really tough to have motivation without [your teammates] there for you.”
As the Quakers move into the Ivy Classic this weekend, Bonincontri and the rest of the Red and Blue will have to build from their season-high score achieved at Shelli Calloway Invitational last weekend.
“Every tenth is going to count,” Tarver said. “Every little step, every little body movement, every little bobble is going to count and could make a difference between first through fourth.”
Having already topped Brown, Yale and Cornell this season, the Quakers are poised to show their strength against their Ivy competitors.
“I have pretty high expectations for us as a team because we’ve gotten a lot better and a lot more consistent recently,” Bonincontri said. “We’ve been hitting all of our routines and hopefully, we can do that again this weekend.”