Out with the old and in with the new.
With seven rookies on the roster this season, Penn gymnastics’ freshman class will play a greater role in competitions this year than previous classes have in the past. And the largest gap they fill for the Quakers is on vault.
“We have a strong freshman class,” head coach John Ceralde said. “They’re looking good on their events right now, and we’re definitely looking forward to seeing them on vault particularly.”
First-year assistant coach Kirsten Strausbough agreed.
“Vault is something that in the past we’ve lacked on,” she said. “It’s exciting to see some freshmen coming in with some big skills that will make us more competitive in the NCAA, not just the Ivy League.”
While Penn historically has struggled to attain sufficient difficultly to be competitive with other schools, the talent of this freshman class should help to bridge the divide. And a change in NCAA rules regarding the degree of difficulty of a particular vault may favor this particular freshman class.
The most popular vault in NCAA women’s gymnastics is a Yurchenko layout full (a round-off onto the board, back handspring onto the table and a layout with a full twist). Earlier this year this vault was devalued from its previous 10.0 start value to 9.95.
“Other schools, they had 10.0 start values across the board,” Strausbough said. “Sometimes we would have 10.0 start values, but our other girls would start at 9.8 or 9.9. Now all the other NCAA teams are being brought down to a 9.95.”
Penn’s freshmen will help bring the Red and Blue up to where their competitors have been. Strausbough noted that at least four of the newcomers will be performing Yurchenko fulls.
Ultimately, the rule change was made to force a greater level of difficulty for the 10.0 maximum start value. Now, instead of a Yurchenko full, gymnasts need to perform the same vault with an extra half twist to gain back that extra 0.05.
While to the average human, a half-tenth of anything might not seem like much, in this sport it can make all the difference.
That extra half-twist not only requires greater height and speed, but also a more difficult landing: the blind landing, which draws its name from the fact that the gymnast’s eyes do not see the floor before her feet hit it.
“When you do the one-and-a-half you’re opening yourself up for more of a deduction,” Strausbough said. “For them they are deciding [between throwing] the biggest skills they have or just doing the 9.95 and doing it safe.”
The question then becomes whether or not it’s worth it to go for the one-and-a-half to get the extra half-tenth in start value. Do the risks outweigh the rewards?
“The top schools in the nation have the ability to do the one and a half, so now they have to play their hand to do the one-and-a-half to get the 10.0 start value,” Ceralde said.
While this is a decision each team will be making for itself, the Quakers’ most popular vault will remain the full.
Only time will tell to see how it plays out and whether the rule change helps the Red and Blue.
What’s for certain, though, is that Penn’s freshman talent will be valuable for time to come.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.