Fighting through adversity and working to make small improvements are the keys to becoming a champion.
So for Penn gymnastics, which fell by a slim 192.700-to-192.200 margin to Southeast Missouri State in Friday night's "Pink Meet," that's exactly what this defeat will allow the Quakers to do: fight through adversity and learn lessons to continue to improve themselves. Despite a tough, close loss, the Quakers (1-4, 1-1 Ivy) still have their eyes on the Ivy Classic, which is now only a month away.
The Quakers continued to work on making small adjustments and improving their consistency against SEMO (2-4, 1-1 Midwest Independent Conference). Despite the final result, Penn saw some standout individual performances, and the team's score of 192.200 was its highest all season.
“Despite the loss, we made a ton of improvements today,” senior co-captain Kyra Levi said. “I’m not walking away with anything but pride for the team. I think we’re on a great path, we’re going to peak at the right time.”
Penn had some trouble early in the meet on bars, although it was able to recover considerably with the powerful group on beam, scoring 48.475 there led by a 9.825 from Caroline Moore. The team has had success all year in this event and is hopeful for the future, given the high level of performance the team has already seen from freshmen Darby Nelson and Darcy Matsuda.
“They’re doing exactly what we would want them to do and what they’re supposed to be doing,” Levi said. “They’re working hard in the gym and that’s paying off. Even if there are some bumps along the road in a meet, they're figuring out how to deal with their nerves, and I think that they're really coming back stronger.”
Like in last weekend’s tight win over Yale, the Quakers’ finest performance came in their final event. Against SEMO, this was in the form of a series of stunning performances on the floor, anchored by senior Alex Hartke’s team-leading score of 9.875. Overall, five gymnasts on Penn’s side scored above 9.700.
“Alex is a unique combination, because she’s one of our most consistent, but also one of our highest scoring [athletes], which is just like a deadly combination,” Levi said. “Every time she goes up, none of us are really worried, and we're all just kind of excited to see what she’s going to come up with.”
Floor is a special event, as it consists of a long, choreographed routine and has significant room for style and creativity to play a role. It’s also about putting on a show, something that Penn especially relished given that this was the team’s first chance to perform in front of a home crowd.
Although the yelling and fanfare of a home arena might seem like a distraction, it mostly just makes the Quakers even more fired up and excited to compete.
“Floor’s a really fun event; we get to just kind of have a good time. It’s different than beam, which is very serious and calm and floor is just energetic,” Levi said. “It’s the only time you actually get to feel like a kid again, you just dance around … it reminds us why we love the sport and that’s why I really like floor, because it gets you back to your roots of why this is exciting and why it's a good time.”
Despite suffering a difficult loss against SEMO, Penn has a lot to feel good about from this meet and will continue to use it as motivation to improve. The Quakers will need to be at the top of their game next week, where they will travel to Ithaca in an attempt to get revenge over reigning Ivy champion Cornell (3-2, 1-0 Ivy) on Saturday.
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