As the winter weather carries on across the country, Redbirds will be in flight, migrating to the south for some warmer weather and a gymnastics competition.
On Saturday, Illinois State comes to Penn, not only for the Quakers first home meet of the 2013-14 season, but also for the debut of new equipment.
“They are a really good team and competing against them will motivate us as well,” junior Amber Woo said.
The Red and Blue will finally have a chance to show off in front of a receptive home crowd, something they only got to experience once a season ago.
“We will get the opportunity to show off our new equipment and what we have which is always exciting,” Woo said. “And we get to use the new equipment, which we are really excited about.”
Throughout coach John Ceralde’s time at Penn, the team has never faced off against the Redbirds — the new opponent comes in conjunction with new equipment.
“Team-wise we would just want to perform better than our last meet,” Ceralde said.
The newly developed equipment inside the Penn’s gym comes along with other changes from last season.
Last season, the Quakers saw many of their key gymnasts graduate. This rebuilding year gives the squad the opportunity for many of the younger team members to step up into roles that they did not have last year.
But the team’s unfamiliarity with these uncharted waters was on full display last weekend at Penn’s first competition at the G.W. Invitational.
“We are young and inexperienced,” Ceralde said. “We are just trying to become more consistent, which is just going to take time.”
The Red and Blue began their official season last weekend hoping for a fresh start in Washington, D.C., but the Quakers let their nerves get the best of them and ultimately placed fourth overall.
“It was the first collegiate meet for the freshmen and of course some of the sophomores,” Ceralde said. “So now that we got our jitters out, our performance this weekend will be different with a better outcome.”
But the Red and Blue are up against some unfortunate luck — the delayed finish of the construction of Penn’s new gym allowed less time for the gymnasts to train on the equipment in preparation for the season.
This is not the only set back the team has had to deal with though. The Quakers are also plagued with injuries, and Penn’s leading all-around gymnast, sophomore Elyse Shenberger, is unable to compete.
With others injured as well, many of the younger gymnasts might unexpectedly make appearances in the lineup this weekend, and perhaps throughout the season.
“We are a little bit behind compared to last year,” Woo said. “But I have no doubt we are going to work hard and improve and be just as good if not better than last year, and we just have to step up our game and be positive.”
Though still early in the season, Saturday’s competition will show the Quakers where they are and what they need to work on moving forward.