Fly, gymnasts, fly!
On Sunday afternoon, Penn gymnastics hit its season high score in its Senior Meet, beating out its previous high earned last week at Cornell by more than a full point. Among the highlights for the Red and Blue was a combined score of 49.300 on floor, tying a school record last set in 2003, and ultimately leading the Quakers to take third place in the contest.
Penn came into the weekend with electric energy, coming off a big win against defending Ivy League champion Cornell last week. On paper, Sunday's meet went as expected with no upsets. No. 59 Penn posted a final score of 193.725, placing third behind No. 50 Temple (194.700) and No. 52 Bridgeport (194.225), but ahead of No. 73 Ursinus (186.900).
However, the meet itself was anything but conventional. This was the Quakers’ (3-6, 2-1 Ivy) Senior Meet, and the gymnastics class of 2018 lived up to expectations with solid performances. Coach John Ceralde says that this class has “represented Penn gymnastics very well.” Sunday was no exception, with senior gymnasts holding the leading scores on Penn’s team in every event.
Ally Podsednik individually placed fifth on the vault (9.725). Senior captain Kyra Levi was fourth on the uneven parallel bars (9.750), second on the balance beam with a career high of 9.775, and second on floor with a stellar 9.900 on floor.
Contributions were not just made by the gymnasts doing routines. Injured seniors Olivia Neistat and Emily Shugan were seen boosting the energy in the Palestra, cheering and high-fiving their teammates.
“They’re contributing just as much, if not more, than people doing the actual routines,” Levi said. “Over half the battle of gymnastics is the mental and the team aspect, and I would say they contribute more than anybody else. I don’t think we would feel as much of a team without them.”
Levi says that her senior class has “developed a really strong team dynamic. All six of us all chipped in in any way we could and it worked out.” This mentality was apparent when senior Alex Hartke’s teammates danced alongside her at the edge of the mat during her floor routine.
Hartke earned a career high of 9.925, taking first place in the event, and securing the second-best score in the event in school history. This is Hartke’s second week in a row earning a career high, also scoring a 9.825 on the beam last week against Cornell.
“She never ceases to amaze us," Ceralde said on Hartke. "She’s always improving, working hard in the gym and I’m really happy for her to hit her career high her senior year.” When asked if he thought she might break it again, Ceralde said that he “wouldn’t be surprised.”
Sunday was only the latest example of Penn's consistent improvement all season, reaching their season-high score of 193.725. In each meet this year, the Quakers have been able to score higher than they did the previous week.
“This was a huge improvement for us. ... Each week we’re kind of building on what we’ve done the week before," Levi said. "This is really how you win Ivy championships, so I think we’re in a really good spot and everybody feels really motivated to keep improving.”
To honor the seniors, their families played short slideshows displaying each senior progressing through their gymnastics careers. Sunday’s performances of these 21- and 22-year-old women, compared to the videos of six-year-olds dancing around the kitchen or doing backbends in the living room, show how far these seniors have come.
But perhaps the biggest way to show that development would be to win the Ivy Classic in a couple weeks.
The last time Penn won the Ivy Classic was in 2015, when this class of seniors were freshmen. Senior Megan Finck intends on “going out with a bang … just like we started."
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