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Junior Nia Akins finished second in the 800-meters at the NCAA Championships with a program record time of 2:03.74.

Credit: Zach Sheldon

Spring break was an exciting time for Penn Athletics. With impressive wins from many teams, the Quakers had a lot of success.

Track

This weekend was also a big weekend for track, as junior Nia Akins nearly won it all. After being named the Most Outstanding Indoor Track Performer of Ivy Heps two weeks ago, Akins began her pursuit of an individual NCAA title on Friday. 

She qualified for the 800-meter final after a 2:06.05 time in the semifinals. In the championship race, Akins was even faster, running a personal-best 2:03.74. She ended the race in second and was narrowly edged out by Penn State's Danae Rivers, who had a strong close and finished with a mark of 2:03.69.

Gymnastics

Led by senior and Missouri native Caroline Moore, Penn gymnastics defeated Southeast Missouri to start the break. The team ended with a total score of 191.900, compiling its best scores on the floor (48.300) and beam (48.150). Freshman Natalie Yang led the way on the beam with a personal record of 9.875.

Penn then continued its Midwest tour, traveling to take on Lindenwood and Illinois-Chicago in St. Charles, Mo. Although the Quakers competed well, they finished last of the three teams with a 193.575 mark. 

Despite strong scores in the floor routine — which was their best combined score of the competition — and beam, the Red and Blue struggled on the vault, scoring a 47.625. Although the Quakers left Missouri with a third-place finish, the trip was special for Moore, who had the opportunity to compete in front of many of her family members and friends.

Credit: Son Nguyen

“My sister actually lives near Cape Girardeau, and I got to see her," Moore said. "My parents came out as well as one of my friends from grade school which was really nice. At the Lindenwood meet, I had 15 relatives there. It was really cool because most of them had not seen me do gymnastics since I was five years old.”

As Penn wrapped up its Midwestern trip, the group's eyes turned to Maryland, where the Quakers met a strong Maryland team. Although the Red and Blue finished second out of four teams, they scored a 195.075, beating Penn’s all-time scoring record of 194.600.

“We have been wanting to break the school record since our freshman year. It has been four years that we have been dreaming of this moment," Moore said. "Finally, we saw our hard work pay off and accomplishing the goals we set. We are not done yet, and our goals have been taken up a notch now.”

As the Quakers celebrate this achievement, they will begin to focus on their next meet at William & Mary on Friday and the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships the week after.

Tennis

The break was also an exciting time for men's and women's tennis.

The women’s team was very successful last week. Traveling to Florida, the Red and Blue started strong, winning their first three matchups versus Tulane, South Florida, and Miami (Ohio).

Penn’s first matchup versus Tulane was a close contest, with a final score of 4-3. Penn dominated in doubles, winning all three matches. The Quakers were not as successful in singles but split wins with Tulane, with each side picking up three victories. This matchup was filled with many close sets, three of which were longer than 10 games. 

The Quakers' next matchup was against South Florida where they commanded a dominant victory, finishing with a 5-2 win. The Quakers were again dominant in doubles, winning all three matches. They also picked up a majority of the singles victories, winning four of six matches.

Like their previous matchup, the Quakers won a convincing victory over Miami with a final score of 5-2. Unlike their previous matchups, the Red and Blue were much more successful in singles — going 4-2 — but dropped their first doubles match of the break. However, both of Penn’s singles losses were decided in a tiebreaker set.

Although Penn illustrated promise in the first three matches, it was defeated by No. 27 Central Florida on Sunday. While the Quakers did pick up a win in doubles, they dropped five of six singles matches. There was a bright spot, though, with No. 111 freshman Yulia Bryzgalova defeating No. 27 Valeriya Zeleva in the singles competition.

The men were also on the road during the break, traveling to North Carolina. Although they started the break with a convincing 7-0 win at the Citadel, they were swept by No. 33 NC State by the same 7-0 score. Even though the loss was difficult, Penn fought hard, losing in three three-set matches.

The Quakers subsequently traveled to Charlotte, taking on UNC Charlotte and UNC Wilmington. Losing a heartbreaking 4-3 match versus Charlotte, the Red and Blue bounced back versus Wilmington.

The match against Charlotte was filled with close endings. With freshman Edoardo Graziani losing 7-5 in the third set, as well as freshman Kevin Zhu losing two close sets, the Quakers quickly fell behind. However, the match at UNC Wilmington was a much stronger showing, as they gained momentum with a doubles win and a commanding victory by Graziani.

The Red and Blue did not enjoy this same success in their next match at Duke, losing by a score of 6-1. Senior Dmitry Shatalin won Penn's only match with a 10-6 triumph in a third set tiebreaker.

Some of the struggles came from losing senior Kyle Mautner, who has been the best player for the group this season.

“Kyle left us after a few matches, so we were alone without him," Shatalin said. "He is our best player, and I think we reacted well to that and all fought hard despite this.”

Penn has just two more games — against Delaware and Temple on Sunday — before Ivy League play begins. 

“We are all looking forward to Ivy League matchups. They are very tough matches … and I am really looking forward to those," Shatalin said. "It’s a very good way to measure ourselves with other great teams."

Fencing

Although they did not have a match on the first weekend of break, men's and women's fencing were both practicing before the NCAA Regional Championships on March 9.  

The men’s team had a strong showing at the tournament. Although they did not have any top three placements, many Quakers placed in the top 15 of all events. Sophomore Sean Wilson and freshman Emon Daroian placed seventh and 15th, respectively, in epee. 

The Red and Blue fared better in foil, with sophomore Michael Li, senior Raymond Chen, and freshman Jerry Wu finishing fifth, 10th, and 13th, respectively. The best placement of the night for the Quakers was a fourth place finish by junior Adam Green in sabre. Behind him were freshman Xiteng Lin and sophomore Andrew Sun in ninth and 11th place, respectively.

The women’s team also ended with strong results. The group had numerous top-15 finishes at NCAAs. In epee, freshmen Vanessa Dib and Margaux Games finished fourth and 10th, respectively. In foil, juniors Nicole Vaiani and Danielle Ferdon finished seventh and 11th, respectively. The Quakers also had two top-15 finishes in sabre, with junior Sara Papp and freshman Lark Izenson coming in 10th and 11th place, respectively.

Credit: Nicole Fridling

Wrestling

Throughout the break, Penn wrestling was preparing for the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships. The Red and Blue were the youngest team at the tournament, with six true freshmen and eight first-time starters. Eight of the 10 wrestlers that Penn sent took home wins, with five of six freshmen getting their arms raised. The Quakers had three wrestlers place, and they had a champion in freshman Anthony Artalona. 

Artalona’s final win at 149 pounds came in overtime, making it his seventh victory in extra time this season. The Red and Blue’s other big performances came from the freshmen duo of Carmen Ferrante — who placed fourth at 125 pounds — and Doug Zapf — who finished in sixth at 133 pounds.

Ferrante and Artalona placed high enough to qualify themselves for the NCAA Wrestling Championships, from March 21-23 in Pittsburgh. They will learn their seedings and draws for the tournament on March 13.

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