Graduating five USAG Collegiate Nationals qualifiers from a team that finished at the bottom of the Ivy League a year ago, Penn gymnastics needed something special to prove it belonged among the league’s elite once again.
Thankfully for the Red and Blue, Caroline Moore has taken the message.
Coming out of nowhere after an injury-plagued freshman season, the Missouri native has become a sensation overnight for the Quakers, seizing a leadership role for a Penn team that finds itself in the Ivy League’s driver’s seat in a situation that seemed impossible only months ago.
“I’m just really happy to have been healthy this year so far, and individually and team-wise I’d say I’m happy with the way it’s gone,” Moore said. “But we all still have areas to improve upon, and I think that’s really exciting.”
While Moore has stood out this year, her ascent to stardom hasn’t been smooth all the way through. Last year as a freshman, she suffered a fractured tibia during fall practice, sidelining her for the majority of her debut season.
Though Moore was able to return late in the season, even securing the school’s highest beam score since then-senior and current assistant Kirsten Strausbaugh in 2013, the frustration understandably piled up.
“It was definitely hard to sit on the sidelines and not be able to contribute physically — I still felt fully a part of the team, but not being able to compete was a struggle for me,” Moore said. “It was definitely kind of hard to deal with, but we’re over that now.”
Talk about an understatement.
Seeking redemption from both the individual and team disappointments from a year ago, Moore attacked the offseason with unparalleled energy, and that work ethic didn’t go unnoticed. Despite her lack of experience, Moore was named a captain alongside junior Kyra Levi and senior Rachel Graham, making her the only sophomore to have served as a captain for any Penn team this school year.
Needless to say, none of the Red and Blue regret that decision one bit.
Opening the season at the Lindsey Ferris Invitational, Penn took second place with its highest team score in 23 months, and Moore led the charge with a team-high 29.275 points across three events.
But it was the following week, during the Quakers’ home opener against Yale, when the gymnastics world would see that Moore was the real deal.
Penn trailed the Bulldogs for the majority of the day, but Moore put the team on her back to will the Red and Blue to a wild comeback victory. Competing through strep throat, Moore individually won three events, including a staggering 9.875-point effort on the floor that marked the No. 4 score in the event in Penn history. Penn ended up scoring 193.575 points in the Ivy League’s best mark this season, and Moore was named the ECAC Gymnast of the Week.
A look at one of TWO floor routines that entered the Penn record books today and helped spur the Quaker comeback!— Penn Gymnastics (@PennGym) January 21, 2017
First up: Caroline Moore pic.twitter.com/gbWkQvdqij
“That was pretty cool,” Moore reflected on her career day. “I will say my strep throat, it just kind of hit the back burner; it didn’t really matter because I was preoccupied with the competition at hand.”
As was on display during that comeback over Yale, it’s been on the floor where Moore has made her greatest strides. Having not competed in floor once as a freshman, her success in the sport’s signature event has been perhaps the most impressive aspect of her breakout season.
“This year, I’ve just had so much more fun in the event; floor throughout high school was never one of my stronger events,” she said. “Having fun with the team, interacting with the audience, it’s just a really good time.”
With Moore’s repertoire having been expanded, both she and her team have been dangerous. And while her individual success has been well-documented, the Quakers stand unbeaten in Ivy play as the early favorites to take home that conference title.
So if the Red and Blue are able to complete their epic worst-to-first journey, it’s clear that the sophomore will be at the forefront.
“I think we’re capable of much more than we’ve already shown. It’s only been a few meets, and we’re really looking forward to just building from there,” Moore said. “I’m really excited to see where this can go.”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.