It’s an all-Ivy rematch, and it should be a tight one.
This Saturday, Penn gymnastics will travel to Ithaca, N.Y. to take on defending Ivy League champion Cornell, a side it faced only three weeks ago in the season-opening Lindsey Ferris Invitational.
At that event, the Big Red (5-3, 1-0 Ivy) finished third, just ahead of the Quakers (1-4, 1-1) in fourth. Only 0.175 points separated the two teams, so had any number of routines gone differently, the Red and Blue could have finished with the bronze.
Last week, the Quakers came just short of completing a comeback win against Southeast Missouri in Penn’s first home meet, falling to the Redhawks by a 192.700-192.200 score. Again, the teams were close enough that just a few performances separated victory and defeat.
Beam and floor continue to be the events where the Quakers excel the most, and since these are the final two in each meet, Penn almost pulled off its second straight come-from-behind victory following one against Yale a week prior.
Vault is improving rapidly, though, as the Quakers posted their new best in the event at 48.025, led by junior Valerie Rube’s score of 9.725. Bars is still the event where the Red and Blue struggle the most, and is now the only event in which the team has not scored over 48 points.
Freshman Darby Nelson is the only gymnast who usually competes all-around for the Quakers, which means she has to be in top form for every event.
“It’s kinda hard not having any teammates that do it around me,” the rookie said, “but it’s definitely an honor to be able to compete in all four events.”
Senior Ally Podsednik consistently puts up solid scores in vault and beam, and is a critical part of the Quakers achieving high team scores in these events this season.
She attributes Penn’s steady rise in form with a combined sense of team inspiration and drive to do well.
“We practice every day together and sometimes we say we say we’re doing our routines for each other,” she said. “So if you’re doing a routine for someone else, that helps you to have more motivation.”
As for season-long ambitions, the Quakers have their sights set high, and a win in Ithaca would set the Red and Blue on a good path.
“Our goal as a team is definitely to qualify to the NCAA Regionals and be the first Ivy to do that,” said Nelson.
But in order to do that, the Quakers will have to get past Cornell, one way or another.
Penn’s team has some young talent, but so do the Big Red. After having beaten the Quakers by a razor-thin margin at last year's Ivy Classic, Cornell's brought in even more talent, with freshmen Isabel Herczeg and Amy Shen each winning individual titles for beam and bars, respectively, in the team’s last meet.
If this weekend’s meet comes down to the wire, expect some young faces to be the ones making a difference on both sides of the mat.
As these two Ancient Eight squads meet for the second time this season, the Red and Blue will look to improve on their scores from three weeks ago, come out on top, and get some hard-earned revenge in the process.
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