Penn’s gymnastics team has set the bar high.
On Saturday at noon, Penn will host the ECAC Championships at the Palestra, its last meet before NCAA regionals. After a second-place finish last year, the Quakers hope to post another solid showing.
While the Red and Blue would like to bring home their first win at the meet since 2004, they’ll have to go through a Towson squad that has outperformed them on two separate occasions this year.
Traditional Ivy opponents Brown, Yale and defending champion Cornell will also be competing. Penn has proven it can best all the Ivy squads, as it repeated as champion at the Ivy Classic this year.
Nothing appears to be too far out of reach for Penn this year. The Quakers are in the midst of their best season in years. Excluding their first meet of 2012, they’ve earned a score of at least 190 in every meet this year.
Despite the Red and the Blue’s performance this year, both coach John Ceralde and junior captain Kirsten Strausbaugh expressed their beliefs that there is still room for improvement.
“We haven’t put all of the events together all at one time,” Strausbaugh said. “Going 24-for-24 would be great — having no falls the entire meet.”
Strausbaugh acknowledged that the team puts a lot of pressure on itself because all the gymnasts know they can do each exercise well. She admitted the pressure could “definitely” affect performance.
“You have to have a practice mindset while you’re in the meet,” she added.
The Quakers have a lot of gymnasts on their roster who have competed at ECACs before, including last year’s all-around winner, junior Dana Bonincontri.
Ceralde said that given early-season injuries, it will be harder for Bonincontri to repeat. Nonetheless, he noted she’s rebounded very well and is optimistic about her chances.
“I think she’ll do well this weekend,” he said.
But as he and Strausbaugh alluded, the Quakers are looking for every athlete to execute in their exercises, not to have just a few exceptional performances.
It’s the last time the Quakers will compete at home this year. It’s as good a time as any to put together their best performance yet.