nicoleswirbalus

Freshman Nicole Swirlbalus recorded a career-best 9.800 on beam for Penn gymnastics as the squad set a team season-high of 192.400 at Rutgers on Saturday.

Photo: Alex Fisher / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Somehow, Penn gymnastics just gets better every week.

For the third week in a row, the Quakers set a new season-high as a unit, logging a team score of 192.400 en route to a second-place finish behind host Rutgers and ahead of Temple and Ursinus on Saturday.

“Traveling doesn’t make a big difference,” coach John Ceralde said. The coach grounded his reasoning in three consecutive weeks of success away from home as the Red and Blue have continued to build on strong performances, particularly from underclassmen.

The Scarlet Knights, finishing with a team score of 195.075, swept all four events on the day as they individually took the top spot across the board as well. Rounding out the quad-meet was the Owls’ 191.625 and the Bears’ 188.200.

Despite the runaway performance from the hosts, the Red and Blue set themselves apart as the clear second, taking the runner-up spot in three of the four events. It was only on vault — which has been a point of inconsistency for the Quakers so far this season — where Temple edged them out, 48.250-47.625

As usual, Penn walked away from the floor exercise with its best score of the night, a 48.725 highlighted by sophomore Alex Hartke’s 9.800 — second best at the meet. Kyra Levi and Rachel Graham each put up scores of 9.750 to tie for fourth and solidify the team position for the Quakers.

“Floor has been really strong for the past couple of years,” Ceralde said. “We’re just now starting to get some of those guys [underclassmen] into our lineup, so that’s been a factor in our success.”

Even on the floor, however, Penn couldn’t pass up Rutgers, who took 48.875 on the event. The rest of the team scores reflected the final standings, as Temple’s 48.675 was good for third on the floor and Ursinus’ 46.550 last.

The bars and beam proved to be the middling events for the Red and Blue, as they earned team scores of 48.000 and 48.050, respectively. Once again, those two scores were each enough for second place, but not sufficient to take down their hosts. Atop the leaderboard in both events was Rutgers with 48.450 and 49.000 to round out the day.

In both events, the real battle was for third. And for the only event at the meet, Ursinus found its way out of the cellar on beam, topping the Owls, 47.900-47.725. The bars represented a regression to the mean and Temple’s 46.975 was enough to best the Bears’ 46.750.

Individually, Penn was able to rely on some performances it hadn’t been able to count on due to injury, as they team is finally finding its way back to health.

With the performances more limited to each gymnast’s best events — senior Morgan Venuti was the only member of the Red and Blue to compete in even three events — Ceralde was paid sizable dividends from the focused efforts especially of his underclassmen. Hartke’s 9.800 was matched only by freshman Nicole Swirlbalus, whose 9.800 on beam was the best of her career.

For the Quakers, Saturday represented the first score over 192 all season, which they hope will set them up nicely as they look to defend their Ivy Classic title at Ithaca next weekend.

“The team is determined to achieve our goals,” Ceralde said. “Our meet today is preparing us to succeed in our next one.”

And the next one is the one that really matters.

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