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Junior captain Kyra Levi and 11 other members of Penn gymnastics will head to the West Coast to compete for a chance at individual glory this weekend.

Credit: Zach Sheldon

It’s the last hurrah for Penn gymnastics’ 2017 season.

This weekend, 12 members of the team will travel to Seattle, Wash., to compete in the USAG Women’s Collegiate Championships. And despite the young team’s underwhelming sixth-place showing at last month’s ECAC Championships, individual morale is high.

“I have a really good feeling about this weekend,” sophomore Caroline Moore said.

Moore, a team captain, has played an instrumental role in the Quakers’ success this season, holding the team’s top score in the vault (9.850), beam (9.875), and floor (9.875). But even though she is an undeniably elite talent, this will be her Nationals debut — a testament to both her rapid improvement from an injury-plagued 2016 and the upperclassmen-heavy dynamic of last year’s squad.

Junior Kyra Levi noted that the most important goal of this season was to cultivate the new, young talent that the team is now flush with.

“Overall, it was a huge building year,” the fellow captain said. “It was about getting ourselves ready for another season that is going to be even better than this one.”

Judging by who is making the trip across the country, this goal was not only met, but exceeded. Five of this year’s 12 Nationals competitors are freshmen, while last year’s group of USAG qualifiers featured zero first-year students. The experience that many members of the team lack on this stage makes upperclassmen leadership this weekend all the more valuable.

Levi, making her third straight Nationals appearance, believes that the key is “not overhyping the meet.”

“It’s really not a super high pressure event because there’s nowhere to go after,” she stated. “It’s about leaving it all out there and building on what we’ve done all year.”

What the Red and Blue have to build on is a rock-solid foundation.

On one hand, the team has quite a few quantifiable accomplishments to hang its hat on from this season. Numerous school records fell — particularly on the bars — and on more than one occasion, the Quakers were just a small margin away from outright victories at quad meets. But perhaps more importantly, the gymnasts carry a fierce, never-say-die mentality with them.

“One thing that stood out about this group of girls this year was that we never stopped fighting,” Moore said. “Each week, we went in, and we just always gave it our all.”

“Everyone’s very eager ... and we were very motivated the whole season,” Levi added, echoing this sentiment.

Last season, of the ten gymnasts who qualified for the USAG Prelims, only now-senior Rachel Graham made it to the individual finals, doing so in the floor event. This year’s group of qualifiers are optimistic that they can improve upon that.

“We’ve been training so hard all preseason, and throughout the season as well, so we’re all very strong right now,” Moore said. “It’s just going to take that one last routine to just put it all out there and show what we’ve been working at for so long.”