Another season has come and gone for Penn gymnastics.
The Red and Blue wrapped up the year yesterday with a sixth-place finish up in Providence at the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships. Though the competition may not have brought the results Penn was hoping for, it was marked by a number of remarkable performances, including a first-place finish by Caroline Moore on the vault.
With her 9.800, she beat out competition from five other ECAC schools, three of which — Yale, Brown, and Cornell — Penn squared off against last month at the Ivy Classic. The other two, William & Mary and Temple, were familiar adversaries from Quad Meets earlier in the year.
Despite the fact that Penn has beaten all these teams save for Temple at some point throughout the season, the Quakers finished dead last this meet. Their score, 192.075, was more than one and a half points lower than that of the closest competition in a field that was otherwise separated by less than a point.
Penn found difficulty on its first two events, the uneven parallel bars and on the balance beam. Finishing last as a team in both, none of the women were able to break into the top ten for either event.
“I mean, it just wasn’t really our day,” senior Rachel Graham said. “We didn’t totally take advantage of all our opportunities, but the fight was totally there and the way that we were able to turn it around in the last two events was pretty awesome.”
While the largest disparities between Penn and the rest of the ECAC schools coming on the bars and the beam, the Quakers fared much better with their feet on the ground. The team held strong above the middle of the pack during the floor exercise. Sophomore Caroline Moore and junior Kyra Levi both dropped 9.800 scores, tying for third place individually in this event.
Moore went on to win the vault immediately after, an event which marked freshman Kellie Flavin’s third of the day. She had previously notched career-bests on the floor (9.750) and on the bars (9.775). She was Penn’s top performer in the latter, where she was followed closely by Caroline Mitsch and Emma Mills with scores of 9.725 and 9.700 respectively.
“Each meet, I’m just thinking about it as one routine at a time, so as not to get ahead of myself,” Flavin said when asked how she maintains focus throughout a multi-event competition. “It’s easier for me to focus on the one routine and not so much on all three routines.”
Apart from the women who qualify individually for the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships in Seattle in a few weeks, ECACs marks the end of the road this season.
For freshmen like Flavin, this year was a new and inspiring experience.
“It’s actually a lot different from club because it’s more team oriented, which is something that I love about college gymnastics. It’s a different kind of pressure because it’s not so much on yourself, but you want to do it for the team,” she said. “Now that I’ve been exposed to that pressure I feel like I know what to expect and I’ll be able to channel it better next year, and keep continuing to get better so I can contribute more to the team each time.”
Though the freshmen are optimistic about what the future might hold, reaching this point in the year means that the collegiate careers of the team’s two seniors — 2017 ECAC Scholar-Athlete of the year Kelly Tan, and 2014 USAG All-American Graham — are drawing to a close. They will certainly be missed next season, and there is no doubt that Penn’s younger gymnasts will no doubt need to step up in a big way to fill their shoes.