Sometimes the little things matter in big ways.
On Friday evening, in its first individual meet, Penn’s gymnastics squad followed up their third-place finish at the Jan. 15 Lindsey Ferris Invitational by narrowly edging Rutgers, 191.975-191.925, at Hutchinson Gym.
The Quakers (1-0) hadn’t attained a score that high since the 2008 season, but they needed every point — every hundredth of a point — they received.
One more step out of bounds on the floor, a slight waver on the beam, or an infinitesimally less precise landing off the vault could have cost the Quakers fractions of a point and the result could have just as easily gone the other way.
“I knew it was going to be a tight one,” coach John Ceralde said.
He probably didn’t expect it to be that close.
The official results weren’t even announced until roughly half an hour after the gymnasts left the floor, as the judges conferred, and reviewed the results.
To receive a 191.975, Penn posted solid scores of at least 48 on both the bars and beam, and were just shy of that mark on vault, earning a 47.925. They added an healthy floor score of 47.725.
“For our second meet, that’s pretty good,” Ceralde noted.
The performance of 191.975 was one that the Quakers would take any day.
Just last week, the Quakers managed a 48 in just one exercise, the vault, and posted a meager 46.200 on the floor.
Penn was content with their finish then, but they showed startling improvement on Friday.
Interestingly, Rutgers (0-3) outperformed Penn in three of the four exercises, but the Scarlet Knights stumbled on the uneven bars, posting a 47.525, while the Quakers earned a score of 48.200 in the same exercise. The slight margin allowed the Red and the Blue to eke out a win, and drop the Scarlet Knights to a third-straight loss to start their campaign.
The Quakers only managed to score higher than a 48 on the bars once last season.
“The rest of the season is really just working on little things,” senior captain Kirsten Strausbaugh said. “Having better presentation and sticking landings and not giving away little tenths.
“One tenth here and one tenth there, it all adds up.”
Friday night was a good reminder of that adage.
Strausbaugh had an excellent night, posting the second highest all-around score of all gymnasts, 38.700.
Freshman Amber Woo, one of Penn’s most promising young gymnasts, earned a 38.200 to help propel the Quakers to a strong first win.
“We wanted to start the season off really big,” Woo commented.
Junior Megan Milavic also had a good night, scoring a 37.800, the fifth-highest all-around score. She might well have placed higher had she not fallen off the beam near the end of what had been a near-flawless routine. Freshman Amanda Schlaefer had the best performance on the beam with a 9.725.
With nine freshman, Penn should have room to improve even more — a scary thought for rivals considering this was the Quakers’ best performance in years.