Gymnastics_Nelson

Though Penn gymnastics loses a strong senior class, freshman and recently anointed second team All-American Darby Nelson will lead a talented group of returners next year.

Credit: Carson Kahoe

Just try and enjoy the moment.

That’s what Penn gymnastics had to remind itself when it traveled down to Texas during fling weekend to compete in the USA Gymnastics Championships. Penn beat its best team score of the season with a mark of 193.925, and also had standout performances from gymnasts competing individually, including a first team All-American performance from junior Caroline Moore.

Floor has been a strength for the Quakers all season, and it was again at USAGs. All five competing members of the team scored above 9.700, with seniors Alex Hartke and Kyra Levi getting 9.825 and 9.800, respectively. Although Penn was not able to advance out of the first semifinal round, it rose to the occasion of the national championship with some incredible performances.

“I think experience is everything especially at this stage in the game,” junior captain Caroline Moore said. “We just tried to emphasize having fun with ourselves and each other and just going out there and saying, ‘this is our last meet so we might as well go out there and enjoy it, put it all out there because we have nothing to lose.'”

With a stunning beam effort of 9.825, Moore was named first team USAG All-American and advanced to the finals. As a junior captain, more responsibility fell on her to lead the team during a tough weekend of competition. Luckily, this is a team that supports its members.

Beyond Moore's effort, freshmen Darcy Matsuda (on beam) and Darby Nelson (all-around) both earned second team All-America nods.

“We try not to get caught up in the scores and what’s going on around us,” Moore said. “We really did do it for each other. Before every single vault my teammate Ally Podsednik and I, we look at each other, we give each other a fist bump, and we say ‘I’m doing this vault for you.'”

This year, the USAG Championships happened to fall during Spring Fling, and it would be unsurprising if members of the team were disappointed that they had to miss the festivities taking place at Penn. However, getting to travel to Dallas and compete in the sport they love was more than an acceptable trade off.

As a team that celebrates teamwork and strives to create a positive and supportive environment, it should come as no surprise that they enjoyed each other’s company as much as the free food and live music that took place this year at Penn Park.

“Fling is a fun weekend, but we had our own fun in Dallas,” Moore said. “We made our own fun.”

For Moore, that support is something she thrives on, especially when competing as an individual in the spotlight of the championships.

“It’s very different; competing for the team is [definitely] a lot more fun. When you’re an individual you’re still representing Penn, but there’s just something about competing with the girls you compete twenty hours a week with,” Moore said. “I wasn’t alone, they were still there every step of the way. I don’t think I could do it without them there."

Penn gymnastics had an incredible season and, although it’ll be losing some incredibly talented seniors, will look to be even better next year with a lot of young talent returning.

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