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Sophomore Sydney Kraez vaulted herself to third-best in program history in only her second collegiate meet as a freshman.

Credit: Will DiGrande

Breaking onto the scene with a dominant season may be hard to follow up, but that is exactly what sophomore Sydney Kraez plans to do for Penn gymnastics.

Like most gymnasts, Kraez started gymnastics at a very young age, but it was actually her younger sister who started before her. Kraez watched her sister compete at a local club, thought it was exciting, and then got involved in the club at seven years old. 

Few sports allow the freedom and creativity that gymnastics allows, and that is what sparked Kraez’s passion for the sport. 

“I just love the feeling of being able to flip my body around in ways that isn’t very normal for many people,” Kraez said. 

That passion only grew when she came to Penn and enjoyed the team aspect that wasn’t present at the club level. 

“Here you get to come together as a team every weekend and just show off the hard work that you’ve been putting in, and that’s what I love most,” Kraez said.

As a freshman, Kraez competed in all 12 meets and made the transition from club to college look easy, quickly etching her name into the record books. In only her second collegiate meet against Yale, Kraez’s score of 9.825 on the vault became the third-best in program history. Her 9.875 in the floor exercise against Lindenwood is the fourth-best in program history. 

For Kraez, her sophomore season will be about building on her first-year performances while also adding more to her repertoire. Last season, she competed in all the events except the uneven bars. But in the first two meets this season, Kraez has competed in all four events, becoming an all-around competitor. 

“This year, I came in with a little bit of a different mindset, and I was able to get my bar routine together,” Kraez said.

The addition of one more routine was definitely an adjustment for Kraez. It also meant that there was added pressure because the extra routine does not only reflect on her ability, but is also another performance that counts towards the team’s overall score. 

Not only has she taken on that role, but she has excelled in it. In the first meet of the season against Towson, Kraez won the all-around title with a 38.725. On Sunday, she placed fourth in the all-around. 

“This year, I think I’m way more confident on all the events anyway,” Kraez said. “Having freshman year as an experience and being able to learn from my mistakes [helps me].”

Kraez’s success goes far beyond simple physical skills. The way in which she approaches the meets mentally translates to her success.  It was that ability that allowed her to adjust her mindset at the start of this year and to reflect on her last season which has led to early success this season. 

“[Kraez] is a hard worker and is really a good motivator in the gym,” coach John Ceralde said.

Only one year in, Kraez has already made a profound impact on Penn gymnastics. As a sophomore, she is bound to have an even better season, especially as an all-around gymnast.