Saturday was just the beginning.
After recording its highest team score since February 2015 in the first meet of the season this past Saturday in Washington DC, Penn gymnastics looks poised to have a breakout season in 2017.
A score of 193.275 propelled the Quakers (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) to a second-place finish in their first contest of the season, beating out UNC and Ivy rival Cornell while yielding the top spot to then-No. 10 George Washington.
The meet came with benchmark performances across the board. The Red and Blue came away with a team score of 47.800 on the uneven bars, good for fifth place all-time in the Penn record books. Sophomore Nicole Swirbalus also put in a career-high score of 9.850 on the balance beam, again good for fifth place in the Penn record books. Several gymnasts hit career-highs in their respective events over the weekend.
Despite their early success, the team claims the only direction they can go from here is up.
“That definitely wasn’t our best showing, and it was still pretty good,” junior Kyra Levi said.
“We definitely still have areas to improve on, which is exciting,” sophomore Caroline Moore added. “With a start to the season like that, we can only build more from here.”
The team agrees that they have gotten better in every event since last year, with deeper lineups at every position.
“For example, with beam, we have like two times the number of girls who can compete, who are ready at any moment to compete,” said Levi. “For the coaching staff and for us, it’s exciting and it takes a lot of the pressure off. Things happen, but we know that no matter what happens, we’re going to have somebody else who is consistent and ready to go.”
The team will have to take advantage of its depth in order to avoid another fourth-place finish in the Ivy Classics Championship, as happened in 2016. A relatively young squad, the Quakers will rely on marquee performances by freshmen in almost every event this season.
Freshman Emma Cullen competed on the uneven bars and beam at the Lindsey Ferris Invitational on Saturday, scoring a 9.725 on bars and 9.650 on the beam. Fellow freshman Tara Mills made her vault debut with a score of 9.600. The Quakers, knowing they are going to need these consistent performances from their youngest gymnasts, have already placed a emphasis on performing under pressure.
“When we were going to compete, everyone would go and I wasn’t worried about whether we were going to make it. I was confident in every single routine that we did,” Cullen said. “It was fun competing, rather than nerve-wracking.”
“This year we went in really focused on consistency, and focused on what we can control, which is our personal routine,” Levi said. “We had six people in every lineup focusing on their routine, and then we would get six hit routines. We had calm, consistent people go up and that’s what led to the culmination of our success.”
The Quakers will look to keep the ball rolling this weekend, facing off against Yale in the Palestra on Saturday.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.