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Credit: Julio Sosa

Penn gymnastics will be competing for the final time this weekend, as they head to Denton, Texas for the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships.

Penn qualified for the championship by finishing among the top eight collegiate gymnastics programs not offering scholarships. This is no easy feat – it has taken the program years to build to this point.

“We have gotten stronger each year I have been here, and we now have more girls on more events than ever before,” said captain Kyra Levi. “We have grown a lot, and in the time we have spent together we have learned so much about each other. We know what triggers people to do the best, and how to tailor our advice to each individual.”

Forming close relationships with teammates is important to team success in every sport, but especially so in the case of a team that has been competing since returning from winter break. Most collegiate teams are not faced with such a long schedule, and at times it can be hard to not feel the sport becoming a drag. Pair the long season with the constant nagging injuries many gymnasts endure, and the need for teammates’ support is even more evident.

Levi credits her team’s success this year to grit – through injuries, aches, and pain, the team persevered, and now has a chance to win the national championship. An opportunity of that magnitude can seem daunting, but the team feels as if they are ready.

“We are focused internally. We know this is our last meet of the year, so we have nowhere to go after this,” said Levi. “We are trying to leave everything out there. Many of us have internal goals we have not reached yet in meets thus far, and we want to check them off our list before the season is over.”

After seniors Alex Hartke and Kyra Levi compete for the final time this weekend, the Quakers will lose two of the best gymnasts the program has seen in a while. Hartke qualified for the NCAA Regionals this year, while Levi qualified as an alternate. No Penn gymnast had earned that honor since 2013 (Kirsten Strausbaugh, who now is the team’s assistant coach, was the last to do it), and no pair of teammates had qualified since 2012.

This does not mean a rebuild is coming for Penn’s gymnastics team though – as teams often like to say, they will reload, not rebuild. Hartke and Levi’s success will hopefully be a signal to the rest of the team about what each gymnast is capable of with four years of hard work.

In Levi’s own words: “I want this to be a launching pad for what’s to come.”