A trio of freshmen is somersaulting itself into the spotlight for Penn gymnastics.
The Quakers' newcomers have been a major part of the team's success this season. Freshmen Ava Caravela, Sydney Kraez, and Natalie Yang have all proven themselves on the mat.
Caravela came to Penn as a Junior Olympic Qualifier. Kraez, a Massachusetts native, was a state champion in the vault and bars. Yang was a NorCal State Championship runner-up on the beam and third-place finisher in the vault. All three have demonstrated massive success before starting their careers with the Red and Blue, and they continued the trend once they got to University City.
According to the three, Penn has provided them with a unique opportunity unlike anywhere else in the country.
”I think balance was the biggest thing for me," Caravela said. "Focusing not only on gymnastics but also academics as well. [The coaches] are pretty good with figuring out how to cater to each person and where they need to have help," Caravela continued. "They don’t let us do whatever we want. We work really hard so it's a good balance."
In the Quakers' most recent competition at Temple’s quad meet, Kraez finished second-highest on the team in the vault, with a score of 9.525, while Caravela finished third-highest on the team in the same event, with a score of 9.275.
On the floor, Kraez tied with sophomore teammate Jordyn Mannino for third overall with scores of 9.775, and Caravela earned a 9.700. Yang had the third-highest score for the Quakers on the beam with a 9.700.
Both Caravela and Kraez are averaging a score of 9.500 in the vault and on the floor. On the beam, Yang has earned at least a 9.700 in all three of the Red and Blue’s competitions. The trio consistently finished as some of Penn’s top performers at events this season.
Gymnastics doesn’t create a divide among athletes from different classes, which has made the transition to college intensity much easier. Kraez cited support from her fellow teammates as a motivator.
“From the start, [the upperclassmen] made us feel welcome and right at home," Kraez said. "They carry us into this process because it is very different than what you are doing in high school. They have been so supportive, and it has made us feel like we can do it. It doesn’t matter that we are freshmen or they are seniors or sophomores or anything. The class label doesn’t matter. We can all go in and do the same thing.”
The three freshmen have bought into the team mentality and want to make a difference out on the mat.
“I think this team is something really special," Kraez said. "We have 22 girls that are willing to put in the work to get the outcome we want and change what you have seen from Penn gymnastics in the past."