For Penn gymnast Jordyn Mannino, the phrase “I’ve been doing it since before I could walk” is not an exaggeration. Mannino began her gymnastics career doing Mommy and Me classes as a toddler and discovered her love for running and tumbling in the gym. She started competing in the Junior Olympics when she was just seven years old.
Mannino knew that she wanted to continue gymnastics at the collegiate level. She had attended Penn’s summer gymnastics camps for three years before starting as a freshman. Mannino was drawn to Penn because she could balance academics on top of her intensive daily practice schedule.
“I just fell in love with the school, the campus, and the coaches,” Mannino said. “I remember coming home from camp every year saying, ‘I want to go to Penn’. I wanted to go to a school that was going to give me the opportunity to compete in a competitive athletics environment as well as pursue a competitive classroom environment.”
Joining the Red and Blue has given Mannino the ability to specialize in the events that she likes the most. She especially enjoys floor routines because she is dancing to music, which combines her love of performance with technical skills. Before stepping onto the mat, Mannino’s teammates give her a pep talk. These words calm her nerves and give her a boost of confidence to compete successfully.
“My favorite part is that when I'm doing my routine, I can see my teammates dancing on the side and just smiling at me and motivating me,” Mannino said. “As I'm going, I try not to think about exactly what I'm doing. I try not to move too quickly because I don't like to get ahead of myself. I like to take it one skill at a time.”
Mannino’s teammates, especially underclassmen, admire her poise and confidence when she’s on the mat competing.
“During competition season, she's amazing,” sophomore McCaleigh Marr said. “She just knows when to turn it on and once she turns on, there's just nothing stopping her. She does whatever it takes in order to achieve that goal.”
Unlike club gymnastics, where gymnasts compete for an individual score, Mannino likes that she competes for her team at Penn.
“Gymnastics is a very individualized sport,” Mannino said. “But, I'd rather have a team succeed as a whole than have an individual succeed as one person. I think it's also taught us how to be leaders and followers, which are important life skills for us to take onward.”
Coach Kirsten Becker has been working with Mannino since she was in high school. Becker recognized Mannino’s skill, potential, and positive attitude very early on.
“It has been awesome to see her confidence grow,” Becker said. “Jordyn’s competitive spirit is probably the thing that drives our team. You can definitely tell she is repping the Red and Blue very proudly when she's on the competition floor. She is so determined and motivated.”
In high school, Mannino suffered from a back injury and had to scale back her practice and competition schedule in order to allow herself to heal. In her first year at Penn, she also injured her foot. For Mannino, the key to managing her injuries was staying connected with gymnastics, but also not overexerting herself.
“In order to stay in shape, I did diving, which helped me stay in touch with the motions of gymnastics,” Mannino said. “Gymnastics has been a lifelong commitment. I just had to take a step back in the gym a little bit, do lower numbers of assignments, and make sure that it wasn't going to turn into an injury that would end my career.”
She overcame her high school injuries to finish second on vault and floor, third on beam, and second all-around in the 2017 New York state qualifier. At Penn, her career-best score on bars (9.850) remains the fifth-best in program history, and she helped lead the Red and Blue to an Ivy Classic title win last season.
“I do every routine for my teammates,” Mannino said. “I'm still involved in the sport because of the team that I have today. Gymnastics is a pretty mentally demanding sport and when there are days that are tough, it's really great to be able to look to my teammates and my coaches.”
Although Mannino is disappointed that she will not be able to compete this year, she said that ending her last season as an Ivy Champion helps ease the emotional difficulty.
“It was really nice to know that we were able to end on that high note and that all of our work paid off,” she said.
Because the team is not able to compete, Mannino’s job as a senior differs from normal years. With Penn gymnasts residing all over the country, Mannino’s priority has been creating an inclusive environment, especially for new freshmen. Marr said Mannino has been a positive role model for her teammates and has fostered togetherness within the squad.
“She’s always so supportive,” Marr said. “I had a bit of a difficult time in the beginning of last year and she was my go-to person. She always just knew what to say to me and make me feel better about myself. She honestly has so much insight and so much wisdom.”
Mannino has made her mark on Penn gymnastics both on and off the mat, earning herself a place in the team's history books through her impressive performance while leaving a lasting impression on her teammates and future leaders of the Red and Blue.
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