After weeks of practicing and an intrasquad meet back in December, the Penn gymnastics team will kick off its season in earnest this Sunday at the Lindsey Ferris Invitational, hosted by George Washington University, in Washington D.C.
The Quakers will compete against Cornell, UNC and Temple, in addition to the host school.
After taking a brief hiatus from the invitational last season, Penn is set to return to the nation's capital to compete in the meet that it opened it season with every year since 2011.
With this competition being the team's first of the season, its performance can help establish a tone for the rest of the 2016 campaign.
"Every meet is important, we just want start off the season strong," junior captain Rachel Graham said.
For the Red and Blue, one of the focuses this week is assessing the current strengths and weaknesses of the team. The first meet will act as a sort of gut check, allowing them to evaluate their training and preparation so far.
"This meet we are just trying to gauge and see where we are as a team," head coach John Ceralde said.
Senior captain Amber Hu agrees with this sentiment.
"I think we expect to see where everyone is and get a feel for each event and where the team stands," Hu said.
This meet is also Penn's first opportunity to translate all of its practice and work over the past few weeks into results. With plenty of time to prepare for the first meet, the mentality for the Quakers heading into Sunday's competition is just to continue what they have been doing.
"I think we want to go in with a positive attitude and just do what we have been doing in training," Graham said.
The Quakers will be faced with a few familiar opponents this weekend in fellow Ivy school Cornell and Big 5 rival Temple. Both schools also compete in the same conference as Penn, the Eastern College Athletic Conference. This early season meeting is an opportunity for the team to see the conference rivals up close.
"We understand that Cornell is part of Ivies, and Temple is part of the Big 5, and we definitely want to see where we are at this point in the season in comparison to our competition," Ceralde said.
Despite the presence of conference rivals, the team is not feeling any extra pressure or preparing any differently than they normally would.
"It's really just business as usual, there's nothing different about facing them, but it's nice to see where other teams in our conference stand," Hu said.
For the Quakers' large group of freshmen, who form a third of the team, this meet is their first taste of collegiate gymnastics. Despite this, they can certainly play a role in helping the team right off the bat.
"We want to see them be really focused and really excited," Hu said. "It's a big meet with a lot of people competing, so it's a good introduction to college gymnastics."
After this weekend, the Quakers will have a much better idea of who they are as a team. Win or lose, the Red and Blue will know what they need to do to improve as individuals and as a unit. But these results count in the standings, and the Quakers hope to get off on the right foot on Sunday.
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