The Daily Pennsylvanian asked Penn gymnastics junior Sara Kenefick 15 questions about her sport, her time at Penn, and her life overall. Here’s what she had to say.
1. Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Sara Kenefick, I'm a junior on the Penn gymnastics team. I’m an engineering student majoring in Networked and Social Systems Engineering (NETS), and I’m from Charlotte, N.C.
2. When did you start gymnastics?
I started gymnastics probably as soon as I could walk — in the little mommy-and-me classes. Competitively, I probably started in kindergarten at the very lowest level and then you work your way up — level one, two, three — all the way until 10. I started level 10 in ninth grade, so my freshman year of high school, and was lucky enough to do it for four years. Then I committed to Penn late in my sophomore year and I’ve been able to continue my gymnastics career here.
3. What is your earliest gymnastics memory?
I would have to say that the earliest was probably sometime during the rec classes. I did gymnastics at the same club gym my whole club career, so it's kind of cool to look back and see how I grew up in the program. I have one vivid memory of actually competing where we used to curl our hair — we’d put curlers in the night before — and I don’t know why that’s the memory that sticks out to me. Now we just throw it up in a bun, but when we were little there was a whole process to it.
4. Did you play any other sports growing up?
I did dance for a while, but there’s a photo of me and my twin sister and we look really unhappy in our tutus and pink tiaras, so that didn’t last very long. What did last a while was soccer — we were very into soccer but at some point, probably when we got to level five or so, the hours jumped to 16-20 hours a week so our parents made us choose between soccer and gymnastics.
5. What is it like playing the same sport as your sister?
While there is some competitiveness, naturally, that arises, I think it helped us push each other. But also it's so comforting to have a person that’s going through the same exact thing that you are and knows the stress of running from school to gym, staying up late, getting up early, and working a very hectic travel schedule — all of it. I always had a buddy and I always had someone next to me that understood.
6. Do you have a favorite gymnast to watch? Why?
I would say either Simone Biles or Aly Raisman. Simone Biles is obviously the greatest of all time. Her gymnastics is out of this world and it’s always amazing to watch her when she competes. For Aly Raisman, I think her gymnastics is beautiful as well, but I really like her as a person too. I was able to meet her briefly one time at a gymnastics camp. Just the persona she puts on all the time is so caring, and I appreciate the poise and grace she always carries.
7. Do you have any pre-meet rituals?
I know that's a big question for a lot of athletes, but I don’t know if I have any — and if I did I'm not sure I could tell you them. I would say my pre-meet breakfast is usually oatmeal and coffee. But that’s the only routine thing the morning of any kind of meet.
8. What are your favorite events to compete in?
Floor is by far my favorite to compete in. I have so much fun, the energy is so electric — especially when you end on floor, which happens when you’re competing at home. Those are some of the best moments and the most energetic ones. Everybody is into it and I love that the whole team gets into everyone’s floor routine. We have a thing we’ve choreographed in, where there are three beats and the team shouts “Go Penn Fight!” Everyone has a place in their routine and it's one of my favorite things that happens. We do it in the gym and it feels so collective, even when only you’re doing the floor routine, everyone is in it together.
9. What do you do for fun?
Gymnastics and school take up a decent chunk of my life, but I really do love what I’m doing in school so sometimes it doesn’t even feel like work even though it takes up most of my time. For fun, I like hanging out with my friends. When I have time, and the space, and the resources, I like to cook and bake. It’s a little difficult to do at school but I sometimes do it since I have a kitchen in my dorm. When I’m home, I love bike riding — we have a very nice neighborhood to bike ride and walk. I really enjoy any way I can spend quality time with family and friends.
10. Do you have any hidden talents?
Usually, gymnastics is my talent!
11. If you could bring any of your teammates to help you survive on a desert island, who would it be?
I would bring different people for different things. I think I would bring Marigold [Garrett] because she’s very low maintenance and I feel like when the rubber meets the road she’ll do whatever it takes to survive — and also help me survive as well. I would take Sara Penuela-Wermers because she’s so caring, [and] so motherly that I would feel the most comforted to have her with me. I’m not sure she could fend off everything, but we would at least be in it together. Then obviously me and Ana [Kenefick] have such a certain chemistry where we work really well together. We know what the other is thinking, and I think it would be pretty easy to survive together.
12. What is your favorite Penn gymnastics moment so far?
Probably [the Gymnastics East Conference Tournament] last season. GECs were the most exciting days and there was so much energy. Everyone was on fire, getting their high scores, [and] personal bests. We saw some of the highest scores we’ve seen all season; it was amazing to see our team come together and it was the icing on the cake of an already record-breaking season. We put everything out there and I don’t think a single person left with regrets.
13. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from a coach?
All of our coaches preach that we should trust ourselves: Trust in our training, [and] trust in our preparation. For a lot of things, gymnastics is so much more than the actual gymnastics — it teaches a lot of life skills. A lot of what they preach about trusting yourself and having confidence in the work that you’ve already put in can apply to a lot of other areas of life.
14. What advice would you give your younger self?
I would say own who you are. Especially while I’ve been at college — as to be expected — you learn a lot about yourself, I say really own that’s who you are and be proud of that.
15. What are you looking forward to most about the rest of your time at Penn?
There’s so much. But I would say what I’m looking forward to most is to continue seeing this team grow. We’ve proven that we’re very capable of accomplishing big things. We’ll have a new incoming class of freshmen next year, the freshman this year will become sophomores, and the sophomores become juniors, and it’s really exciting to see my teammates grow as individuals, but also grow as a team.