swirbalus

After a strong 9.800 showing on the balance beam last week at Temple, sophomore Nicole Swirbalus is amped to help Penn gymnastics to its first ECAC title in four years.

Photo: Zach Sheldon / The Daily Pennsylvanian

The ECAC Championships have just about arrived, and Penn gymnastics is ready to fight for its championship rings.

This Saturday, the Red and Blue will travel to Providence, R.I. to compete against Brown, Cornell, Temple, William and Mary and Yale. The squad is looking for a big finish in order to qualify for USA Gymnastics Collegiate Nationals in Seattle, Washington on April 7th.

“Everyone is feeling incredibly confident and prepared for ECACs,” sophomore Nicole Swirbalus said. “Especially after getting second at Ivies and being so close to winning, we want to win ECACs that much more.”

Following a season-high effort of 193.950 points in last week’s Quad Meet at Temple — including an insane school record of 49.200 on the bars — the Quakers certainly are peaking at the right time.

“After reaching our season high this past weekend, we are all very excited to perform our best routines at ECACs,” sophomore captain Caroline Moore said. “We’ve been training all year for this time of the season, and we are more than ready both physically and mentally to win.”

Not only is this the Quakers’ biggest meet of the year, but they are also taking on opponents against whom they are seeking revenge for recent close losses. On February 25th at the Ivy Classic, Penn took second place to Cornell by 0.400 points, and it most recently lost to Temple last weekend by 1.025.

The ECAC Championship will be a challenge and will ultimately put the Quakers to the test. After overcoming some mid-season struggles, the squad feels stronger than ever and is ready to compete at the highest level this weekend.

“Our main goal is to come back with a ring, but more importantly we are striving to be the loudest team in the arena and be supportive teammates,” Moore said. “We just want to have fun while doing something we love as a team.”

As Moore stated, it is important to be supportive of every competitor on the team to achieve the best results. It is at meets like the ECACs that the team needs to perform at its best to fully accomplish the goals they have set out for themselves.

“Heading into this weekend everybody is thinking about doing our routines exactly as we know them and having fun with it at the same time. We all would love ECAC rings, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves, and have to stay calm and hit our routines like we know how to do,” Swirbalus said. “We are definitely hoping to qualify for USAG Nationals as team.”

The team hit some struggle points throughout the season, but the team has proven that these moments of defeat and anguish are what has built it up to be stronger and more competitive for important meets later in their season.

The ECAC championship will do just that: test the Quakers’ ability to overcome adversity as a squad in order to rise above competitive opponents that have proven to be a threat to Penn in the past.

Heading into the meet, the Red and Blue have high expectations of themselves, and are holding themselves to the highest standards. With this dedication and motivation, the squad is looking promising for the number one spot at the championship.

“We are completely capable of winning ECACs,” Swirbalus said. “Our bars squad at Temple, which included five freshmen, broke the school bars record, so I am confident that the younger members of the team will rise to the occasion this weekend.”

After this big accomplishment by rookies on the squad, the team is in high spirits heading into this weekend, with a ton of confidence in its rookies. It is important now to focus on the tasks ahead to prepare for the competition that lies ahead.

“I expect that the whole team will be ready for this weekend and will build off of the successes of this past weekend,” Moore said. “At this point, it’s about the small details, because every tenth of a point counts.”

With the whole team looking to accomplish the same goal and with the willingness to do it together, the Quakers could find themselves on the top of the podium as ECAC Champions. Perfect routines, team unity, and a drive to succeed can make this dream a reality.

All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.