With a second place finish in last weekend’s Lindsey Ferris Invitational, Penn gymnastics could not have asked for a better start to its season.
The four-team competition featured the Quakers, North Carolina, Cornell, and then-10th ranked George Washington, who hosted the event. After a somewhat disappointing 2016 season where the team failed to defend its title at the Ivy Classic, Penn came into this meet with many new faces and a firm belief in the team’s ability to succeed this season.
“I want to be a part of one of the best teams Penn has ever had,” freshman Tara Mills told Penn Athletics before the season started.
Through one meet, Mills and her teammates are off to a pretty good start.
The first event of the day was the uneven bars, and the Red and Blue (2-1, 1-0 Ivy), fielding a relatively inexperienced lineup, scored a 47.800. While this was the lowest event score of the tournament for the Quakers, there were some standout performances.
Three freshmen – Kellie Flavin, Alex Kothe, and Emma Cullen – scored 9.525 or higher, but the star of this event was junior captain Kyra Levi, who scored a 9.850, which won the meet and is the fifth-best score in the event Penn gymnastics history.
Next, the Quakers made their way to the beam, where the team scored a 48.700, which was the team’s best event score of the day and the meet’s second-highest beam score behind only the Colonials. Unlike Penn’s uneven bars lineup, this group of six was brimming with experience. Sophomore Nicole Swirbalus led the way with a 9.850, a personal best and fifth-highest score in program history, followed by sophomore Caroline Moore with a 9.775, and senior Rachel Graham with a 9.750.
At this point the Quakers had established themselves in second place, and they would hold that position for the rest of the meet.
The Red and Blue put together another great performance on the floor, scoring a 48.675, which was again second best of the tournament behind George Washington. Junior Alex Hartke starred in this event, notching a 9.775. Kyra Levi, riding the momentum of her historic uneven bars showing, put up a 9.750, and sophomore Morgan Hunker scored a 9.725, which equaled her personal best.
A solid 48.100 point showing in the day’s concluding event, the vault, was more than enough to hold off North Carolina and Cornell for second place. Moore put up another 9.775, a personal best performance, to earn top marks for the Quakers. Junior Ally Podsednik had a 9.650, and freshman Tara Mills scored a very strong 9.600 in her first competition at the collegiate level.
The Quakers finished the day with a combined score of 193.275, the program’s best performance since posting a 193.775 in a dual meet way back in February 2015. So as the team approaches its home opener against Yale on Saturday, it’s clear that the preseason optimism is more than justified.
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