gymnastics

Senior Amber Hu's 9.600 on bars helped Penn gymnastics secure a season-best 191.775-point performance at the Shelli Calloway Invitational at Towson, Md.

Photo: Ilana Wurman

Penn gymnastics has been flying high for much of the 2014-15 season, both literally — in their acrobatic competitions — and in Ivy competition, picking up a surprise victory in the Ivy Classic. This weekend served as both a reminder of their success this season and their fall back down to Earth.

The Quakers’ hot streak within the Ivy League fizzled on Saturday, as they took fourth at the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships in New Haven, Conn., behind William & Mary, Brown and Yale. Penn finished over 1.5 points behind the Tribe, ending the day of competition with a total team score of 192.800.

Heading into ECACs, the Quakers were ranked third behind both William & Mary and Brown based upon regional qualifying scores (RQS). RQS numbers are tabulated by summing each team’s highest scores in each of the four disciplines over the course of the season.

Although Penn entered the weekend in third, the difference between the Quakers’ RQS of 193.060 and the leading ECAC teams was miniscule — a mere .0420 points — with the Bears tallying an RQS of 193.480 and the Tribe qualifying at 193.455. Coach John Ceralde was aware of just how tight the competition would be and envisioned his squad atop the podium.

“As a team we wanted to actually come out on top,” he said. “But this year was different, and it just didn’t happen to fall our way.”

Indeed, the final results at ECACs were not as close as the RQS predicted. Although the Quakers’ team score did improve from the 2013-14 season, the end result is a familiar one, as Penn finished in the same position in the ECAC Championship competition last year.

Despite the Quakers’ second consecutive fourth-place finish, Ceralde was named ECAC Coach of the Year for his team’s dominant performance all winter long. Without a doubt, Penn’s Ivy Classic title — the team’s first since 2012 — and strong class of powerhouse freshmen make a strong case toward justifying Ceralde’s honor.

Also recognized at the meet was junior beam specialist Amber Hu. In addition to recording the team’s highest score on beam (9.850), the Acton, Calif., native was one of four gymnasts to earn recognition as an ECAC Scholar Athlete of the Year.

“She’s been very consistent on the team as well as off the team,” Ceralde said. “We’re just very proud of her efforts this year.”

Hu was one of many Penn gymnasts to deliver “consistent performances” throughout the winter, according to Ceralde. Just consider the all-arounders: junior Elyse Shenberger and freshman Megan Finck. For the duration of the winter, the two versatile gymnasts have consistently topped the score sheets, tallying dozens of near-perfect performances in the high 9.7 to 9.8 range.

“There have been numerous individuals stepping up, so actually overall the team’s been doing good,” Ceralde said.

The Quakers will have one final chance to prove their collective worth come April when the Palestra hosts the 2015 USA Gymnastics Women’s Collegiate National Championships. This year, the Red and Blue qualified for the competition as a team, a particularly impressive feat given how young the squad is.

Individual national competition will follow the Championships and wrap up the squad’s spring season, but for the time being, Ceralde has his sights set solely on team accomplishments.

“We do have a good opportunity to make it to the finals,” Ceralde said.

“We’re just going to work towards that goal and see what happens.”

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