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Now-senior Natalie Yang competes on the beam during a meet against Rutgers on Jan. 26, 2020. Credit: Chase Sutton

As the underdogs in a tri-meet against Temple and New Hampshire, Penn’s gymnastics team returned to Philly last Sunday with two big stats: a vault score program record and the third highest overall score in program history.

Penn gymnastics entered the meet on a high note. Just a week prior, the Quakers dominated the Lindsey Ferris Invitational in Washington, D.C., besting George Washington, Cornell, and William & Mary. Most notably, they put up a score of 194.925, the second-best overall score in program history.

Sunday’s meet in New Hampshire began with the Quakers on the beam, where they put up a score of 48.725 and placed second behind UNH after one rotation. Penn senior Natalie Yang’s graceful routine earned a 9.850, coming close to her career-high of 9.875.

The second rotation saw Penn on the floor, and while it put up some high scores, especially sophomore Sara Kenefik’s 9.850, Temple overtook Penn in second place.

The third rotation was where the Quakers really found their stride. 

Penn’s vault team consists of three freshmen: Emma Davies, Olivia VanHorn, and Isabel Song; two sophomores: Rose DeBarberie and Kiersten Belkoff; and one senior: Sydney Kraez. Each vaulter earned a score of 9.675 or higher, bringing Penn a record-breaking vault score of 48.900.

“Today was the highest vault score in program history, and it was by over a tenth,” head coach Kirsten Becker said. “Usually if you’re beating a record it’s by .025 or .05, but today was over a tenth.”

With a lot of young talent on the team, including the five freshmen and sophomore vaulters, Penn gymnastics hopes to build a strong group of underclassmen for years to come. 

“It’s really good to see them getting out there, getting experience, and doing well right away,” Becker said. “I definitely think that is going to help us out in the future: to get people experience now, and build some consistency and confidence.”

After its final rotation at the bars, Penn finished in third place, a commendable performance that wrote entries into Penn's records. They ended the day with an all-around score of 194.875, the third-best score in program history, and just 0.050 behind last week’s first-place performance at the Lindsey Ferris Invitational. 

“Today was great,” Becker said. “For gymnastics, it’s not as much about wins and losses, it’s more about your overall team score and working towards a higher national qualifying score. Any score that beats out another score that you’ve already earned is going to help your ranking go up.” 

Penn returns to The Palestra for a conference meet against Yale on Sunday, Jan. 30, where it hopes to boost its ranking and continue on its strong trajectory.