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The six newcomers to Penn’s gymnastics team need to hit the vault running.

Coach John Ceralde’s freshmen are joining a squad with high expectations following a season in which the team won the Ivy Classic and the ECAC Championship.

Ceralde believes this recruiting class can similarly step up this season.

“Every recruiting class I’ve had has been good … but this year seems pretty good,” he said. “We have opportunities as we’ve had in the past couple of years.”

Of course, the freshmen won’t be alone — the core of last year’s team, most notably seniors Kirsten Strausbaugh and Dana Bonincontri, are returning to help defend Penn’s titles and help the new additions adapt to the collegiate level.

“I’m counting on some of my older teammates to help me get through those tough times,” freshman Elyse Shenberger said.

Experience aside, the crucial question is how the six newcomers will replace last season’s outgoing seniors, especially Laura DiPaolo and Katie Graham.

Does Ceralde believe they can fill the outgoing seniors’ shoes?

“Yes, I do,” he said bluntly.

And looking at the incoming group he has might just warrant such a belief.

Three of the freshmen — Shenberger, Carissa Lim and Amber Hu — will be competing for a spot in the all-around lineup, according to Ceralde.

And this rookie trio has plenty of potential. Lim earned 2010 Taiwan National Champion honors. Shenberger qualified for the Junior Olympic National Championship in each of the last two years and was the 2012 uneven bars champ in Pennsylvania. Hu qualified for the Junior Olympics Region 1 and NIT Championships in 2012.

It’s no surprise, though, that the new gymnasts are more concerned with looking forward.

“We’re looking to defend our Ivy Championship and our ECAC Championship,” Hu said.

Shenberger echoed those high hopes and voiced expectations and enthusiasm to match.

“We have a lot of potential this year, and it’s really exciting to be part of a team that has so much to live for.”

The incoming class is rounded out by Morgan Venuti, Emily Paterson and Emma Craig. Venuti and Paterson will compete for a spot on bars and vault, and Ceralde expects Paterson to provide some depth on floor. Craig is currently injured, but when she recovers, she’ll look to assist on floor as well.

One thing Ceralde and his gymnasts seem to agree on is that this squad has great chemistry.

“Everybody gets along really well,” Hu said. “We have no drama.”

That’s good news, especially for a squad full of rookies who will face plenty of drama on the mat.

Yet last year’s freshmen adapted well — Amber Woo was an ECAC Rookie of the Year nominee and excluding one meet, Makeda Constable competed in every event but vault. They contributed to Penn’s upset win over Towson in the ECACs by 25 thousandths of a point last season.

In April, Graham forecasted the Quakers would “be even better than they are this year.”

Given the freshmen’s promise, it’s easy to envision Graham’s prediction coming true.


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