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Gymnastics ECAC Credit: Patrick Hulce , Patrick Hulce, Patrick Hulce

This weekend, the Penn gymnastics team will be feeling the pressure. But for the defending ECAC champions, that comes with the territory.

The Quakers will be heading up to Cornell hoping to win their second consecutive conference crown.

There will be six teams competing this weekend up in Ithaca, most of which will provide stiff competition.

“Out of the six teams, five teams have that opportunity to win it. Five teams have already shown that they can score 193.000,” coach John Ceralde said.

“It’s going to be a showdown because everyone can go 194,” senior Kirsten Strausbaugh said. “It’s just a battle of who’s the most consistent. Everyone is not hitting every meet.”

If the Quakers hit their routines and make it through the meet with no falls, they could come away victorious. But that is no easy task in any meet — especially when the pressure is on.

“You know how big the meet is when you’ve won it the year before. And we talk about it all the time so the freshmen know,” Strausbaugh said. “We [seniors] try to keep the nerves calm during the meet because freshmen can freak out a little bit sometimes when they are being thrown into a big meet like this.”

Strausbaugh is one of three Quakers who have been competing all-around for most of the season. Her biggest obstacle, though, is the balance beam.

“I’d like to hit my beam routine, it’s always something in my beam routine that I mess up. It’s my nerve-wracking event,” Strausbaugh said. “I don’t have the biggest skills, but I try to be the consistent one.”

Consistency truly is the key to performing well at this level in gymnastics. Everyone can do the skills and do them well. It is just a matter of who can be as close to perfection as possible in the one routine that counts, and the Quakers understand the importance of this big meet.

Gymnastics is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one. The time between turns gives you time to think, a factor that doesn’t always help and often leads gymnasts to overanalyze a skill or routine that they know they can do.

With a big meet like ECACs, a lot of downtime caused by byes can often lead to gymnasts psyching themselves out, a fate the Red and Blue hope to avoid.

“You have byes in the meet so you have to sit and see everyone else compete and see what they are doing,” Strausbaugh said. “We try not to watch the other teams and keep our eyes to ourselves and on Penn.”

For Strausbaugh and the other seniors, this is the end of a long career in gymnastics.

“The seniors would like to finish the season on a high note. It would be an exclamation to their four years on the team,” Ceralde said.

Winning this weekend would be the icing on the cake for not only the senior class, but the whole Penn gymnastics team.


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