Gymnastics back on top

Sophomores sweep all-around event in first title since 2007

· February 28, 2011, 5:16 am   ·  Updated February 28, 2011, 12:00 am

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Sophomore Kirsten Strausbaugh and the Penn gymnastics team have finally reclaimed the Ivy Leage titles.

On Sunday at the Palestra, the Quakers ended Cornell’s streak of three straight Ivy championships with their first since 2007. Penn finished with a team score of 191.950 to top Cornell’s 190.550.

“They really deserved it,” head coach John Ceralde said. “They worked really hard this year beating all the Ivies up to this point and proving it by finishing up today. I’m just so proud of them right now, I can’t express the emotion.”

Strausbaugh was the all-around Ivy champion, Penn’s first since Molly Sullivan in 1999, after finishing with a 38.600. Meanwhile, the Quakers’ other qualifiers for the all-around, sophomores Megan Milavec and Dana Bonincontri, placed second and third, respectively.

“That trio of sophomores, they never cease to amaze me,” Ceralde said. “They always come through when I ask them to. They’re very strong, just really good gymnasts to rely on.”

Strausbaugh said that sharing the top three spots with her two teammates was a “really exciting moment.”

She also posted the highest score of the day with a 9.850 in the floor exercise.

“It’s my favorite event so I just wanted to control my landings and show it off,” she said.

Only half of the Ancient Eight participates in gymnastics. Penn, Brown, Cornell and Yale all competed in the meet. Brown placed third with a score of 188.900 and Yale last at 185.550.

The Red and Blue entered the meet on a wave of momentum. After some early season hiccups, they dispatched each of their Ivy foes in recent weeks.

“I knew that we were sitting in a very good position [to win the title]. The kids were very confident and skill-wise we put everything together,” Ceralde said. “We were definitely ready for today.”

The Quakers opened up a first-round lead after a strong performance on the uneven parallel bars.

Bonincontri took home a share of the league title last year and led the Quakers in the event with a 9.625, tying for third place this time around.

Penn then moved to the balance beam, posting a 48.200 to keep a share of the lead with Brown after two events at 95.300.

Freshman Keolamau Yee made a strong Ivy Classic debut. Her 9.775 on the beam left her in second place for the event.

After the floor exercise, the Quakers moved to the vault. Bonincontri and junior Laura DiPaolo took the top two spots with scores of 9.700 and 9.675 respectively.

The visiting teams’ fans traveled well, particularly Cornell. But no team drew more fans than the hosts.

The Quakers can ill afford to celebrate too long though, as they host Towson this Friday in Hutchinson Gymnasium. Towson is the only team to beat Penn in the last month.

“We just want to finish up the season strong, and right now they’re looking really good,” Ceralde said.

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