For most Penn students, exams are still two weeks away, but for the gymnastics team, its final test came this weekend.
From Thursday to Saturday, the Quakers competed at their last meet of the season, the USA Gymnastics Collegiate Championships, in Bridgeport, Conn. They came into the meet as the third seed, and lived up to expectations, finishing behind the University of Bridgeport and Texas Women’s University, while beating out five other squads.
On Thursday, the Quakers competed in their opening bracket for a chance to move on to the next round, needing to finish in the top two to advance.
Penn needed to prove that it could come out strong after a three-week break between team meets, its longest of the season. Last year, a similar pause notably affected the Quakers at USAGs, as they failed to advance on the heels of a sloppy outing.
But the team didn’t let history repeat itself. While Bridgeport dominated the round, earning an impressive 195.525, the Quakers didn’t miss their opportunity. Penn posted a 193.900 — the fourth-best score in the program’s history — to leave a large buffer zone between itself and third-place Temple.
The Red and Blue’s first day of USAGs was anchored by its two most consistent gymnasts: juniors Dana Bonincontri and Kirsten Strausbaugh, both of whom represented Penn at NCAA regionals earlier this month.
Both gymnasts earned career-high all-around scores — Bonincontri’s 39.275 marks the highest all-around score in Penn history — as the Quakers marched onto day two and the finals round.
Penn had another strong showing on Friday, as it earned a 193.475, the sixth-highest score in program history — though only the third highest this season, which says something about this year’s squad.
Bridgeport again looked unstoppable, somehow topping its Thursday performance by notching a 195.575. TWU edged out Penn with a 193.700.
For the second straight day, Strausbaugh set a new career high for herself, while Bonincontri matched the same all-around record she had broken one day earlier.
As Saturday rolled around, the team events were done, but Strausbaugh and Bonincontri qualified for six individual finals combined — Bonincontri represented Penn on all four exercises, while Strausbaugh did the same on bars and floor. Boninconti’s bars performance was the best either gymnast would have, as she finished second in the event.
Nine Penn gymnasts were named USAG All-American.
With the performance, the Quakers finished what might be the best season they have ever had. But according to outgoing senior Katie Graham, next year, “[the] team’s looking to be even better than they are this year,” which bodes for a lot of record-setting performances next season. Even if they’re just surpassing the outgoing team’s newly-set marks.