Albert Einstein once defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
This is essentially how Penn gymnastics approaches each upcoming routine, practice and season, except with one key caveat. The twist? The Quakers expect the exact same result year-in and year-out.
In the past five years, that resuls has been the Ivy Classic title. Since the 2010-11 season, the Red and Blue have taken home three of the last five de facto Ancient Eight crowns. In turn, Penn gymnastics has become synonymous with success.
During his 10 years with the program, coach John Ceralde has built a team with a tradition of winning and a core value of consistency. In practice, that means performing clean routines with sharp technique each day. At meets, that means performing for the judging panel like you do in practice. Broaden the timeframe and that translates to winning three Ivy Classics in the past five years.
If anything about the Quakers’ gymnasts is clear, it’s that they’ve been nothing but consistent. Down at Rockwell Gymnasium, winning championships is a way of life.
“The idea is that we just want to continue our winning traditions,” Ceralde said. “So we just want to be consistent.”
Even though the Quakers enter the 2015-16 season as the ones to beat in the Ivy League, they are far from complacent. Rather, they’re hungry. For Ceralde and his team, adding just one Ivy Championship ring to their fingers is not enough.
“We definitely want to challenge ourselves and try and be a better team and qualify for NCAA’s,” Ceralde said.
Amongst the gymnasts, the desire to get better is just as strong.
“We just got our rings, which was motivating for everyone,” junior floor specialist Rachel Graham said. “Our freshmen got to see that, and everyone is so excited going into season knowing that we’re strong and training hard.”
Senior captain Emily Paterson concurred. “We’re coming out of the gate ready. We’re excited.”
In the meantime, the Quakers will have to temper some of that enthusiasm, as the bulk of the meet season is still two months off. Save the intra-squad Red vs. Blue meet on Dec. 4, Penn will not compete against another team — Ivy or otherwise — until the Lindsey Ferris Invitational against George Washington on Jan. 17.
In a conference where the champion is often decided by mere tenths of a point, matches and titles can be won or lost in the details. Thus, every so often the team treats its practice like a meet to prepare for the high-stakes environment gymnastics competitions entail.
“We do little mini mock-meet sort of events,” said assistant coach Kirsten Strausbaugh, a 2013 Penn gymnastics graduate. “At the beginning of practice we will warm up like in competition, and they will have to present like they would in competition so that pressure factor kind of goes into practice in general before meets just to prepare them mentally.”
With luck, the feeling of excelling in a competition environment is just as engrained to the Quakers as their routines are in each gymnast’s muscle memory. And given last year’s narrow .300-point win over Brown at the Ivy Classic, it appears that those meet simulations are paying off for the Red and Blue.
“Everyone has the potential to do really well, but it’s who does the best on that day,” senior Amber Hu explained.
“It really comes down to consistency.”
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