This weekend, Penn gymnastics faced a very familiar opponent: itself.
The Quakers split up into two teams for a night of flips, twists and turns at the Red and Blue meet Friday night at the Nalitt Family Gymnastics Center.
Although the Blue team narrowly edged out their Red counterparts, 111.95-111.65, each team took two of the four events — the Red team winning beam and floor, while the Blue team captured vault and bars. However, this meet was not as much about the score as it was getting the team ready for the season.
“Getting in the competitive setting like tonight is very motivating as a gymnast, so once they get a taste of it, they work harder, they want to keep up their routines and be ready for that first competition,” assistant coach Kirstin Strausbaugh said.
The meet featured a much looser setting than normal. Gymnast introductions started off the night, and fans and athletes continued interacting throughout the entire meet. In the background, upbeat music played the whole time, with several of the gymnasts dancing along.
Despite the laid back environment, the team brought lots of energy in the form of consistent cheering. It didn’t matter which team the gymnasts had been assigned — the Quakers cheered regardless of the side each competitor was on and often lined up to congratulate each competitor after they finished their routine.
“I liked the energy, I liked the way they finished strong on all of their routines, and just the whole atmosphere and camaraderie was excellent,” head coach John Ceralde said.
The team’s performance was quite encouraging, especially so early in the season, as many gymnasts fully completed their jumps and routines.
“A lot of girls hit their routines, which is obviously what we’re looking for, but even the girls [for whom] maybe something small went wrong, they kept fighting through until the end, and that’s exactly what we wanted to see tonight,” Strausbaugh said.
For the Red and Blue’s seven freshmen, Friday represented their first experience in a collegiate setting. Even though this meet had a different atmosphere than most meets they will compete in throughout their career at Penn, the experience is one that will be vital to them.
“It’s a step to be competitive, just to get [the freshman] in front of a crowd,” Ceralde said. “And with the podium being right there, it added a little pressure because on beam they’re seeing everyone at their eye level.
“Sometimes, when they’re in front of their peers, it’s even more pressure than at an away meet where they don’t know anyone in the crowd even if there is a crowd, so just getting them of any spectators is a step in the right direction,” she said.
Even though the Quakers officially kicked off their season with the Red and Blue meet, they still have more than a month until their return to action— and their first real competition— against George Washington. That prolonged break might derail the momentum and energy of some teams, but not this one.
“We just continue what we’ve been doing from day one,” Ceralde said. “We just work on being consistent and work on minor details and become stronger and being more consistent.”
The next time Penn has a meet, they’ll go up against an unfamiliar opponent. But the people they competed against this weekend will all be there, cheering them on in a similar fashion.
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