Penn football shared its 2015 Ivy title with Harvard and Dartmouth. Penn men’s fencing split a conference title with Columbia and Princeton earlier in February.
Penn gymnastics wants the whole damn thing.
Traveling to Ithaca this weekend, the Red and Blue will get the chance to become Penn’s first team to win a solo league championship this year, taking on Cornell, Brown and Yale in the Ivy Classic.
Despite Penn’s status as defending champs, the Quakers are by no means the clear favorite, as this season has seen unprecedented parity throughout the conference. According to RoadToNationals.com, the four foes are all within five national rankings of one another, with Brown leading the pack at No. 50 in Division I followed by No. 51 Cornell, No. 53 Penn and No. 55 Yale.
“Honestly, I really think it’s anyone’s game,” senior bars and beams specialist Amber Hu said. “All the teams have been really strong, and it’s really going to be just who has the best day.”
Still, although Penn will enter the title meet ranked third in the league, the Quakers’ recent performances have provided some optimism. On Feb. 6, the Red and Blue put up a seasonal best score of 190.800 points while avenging a January loss to Cornell. And the team has only improved further since, securing 191.775 points at Towson before yet another seasonal best of 192.400 in last weekend’s second-place finish at Rutgers.
“We’ve had a lot of good momentum these past few meets, and it’s really been just hard work, staying focused and being mentally strong,” Hu said. “We plan to continue that this weekend.”
Continuing the trend might be necessary for the Red and Blue, since each of the past three Ivy champions have put up scores of more than 193.000 — including the Quakers’ 2015 effort of 193.750 that was a mere 0.300 points ahead of the runner-up Bears.
“I think [a seasonal best] will be needed to win,” Hu said. “And that’s obviously what we want to do.”
With all four teams being so evenly matched, the Quakers will take any edge they can get, and one boost might come in the team’s social media presence. Since the 2014-15 season, the team’s has been operated by athletes during meets, with junior beam specialist Kelly Tan and sophomore bars specialist Olivia Neistat running the show this year.
“Last year I was out for the season, so the coaches had me do social media for all of the home meets, and it was a success,” Tan said.
Since Tan is competing again, she generally tweets score updates during the vault and bars events while Neistat takes the floor and beam, making gymnastics the only Penn team to have athletes provide coverage during competition.
“Having the perspective of someone on the floor is more engaging, and keeps the audience moment-by-moment up to date with what’s happening,” Neistat said. “I definitely think it’s increased our following, and our fan base really likes it.”
As anyone viewing the page — which is up to 1,258 followers — can see, Neistat and Tan like to have some fun on the feed, with clever puns giving athletes and fans some extra intrigue.
“I definitely like to implement some humor, because it’s obviously really engaging for the audience,” Neistat said. “It’s easy to be entertaining when you’re funny, so if people are entertained by the tweets, they’re more likely to cheer us on.”
Ultimately, while the team’s online presence may be comedic, there will be no fun and games in its preparation for Sunday, as the Quakers will need some clutch performances to seal their fourth Ivy championship in six years.
“We try to treat every meet like the most important one, but this is one we really want to get,” Hu said. “It’s going to come down to who is focused enough, determined enough and tough enough to have the best day, and I think that can be us.”
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