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The Penn gymnastics team celebrates after junior Kiersten Belkoff's beam performance during the meet against the University of New Hampshire on March 2.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Penn gymnastics ended their record-breaking season with a win at the Gymnastics East Conference Championships Saturday.

Coach Kirsten Becker called the win “truly a testament to how hard everyone worked during the off time through [COVID-19].” Their score of 194.925 ties for the fifth best this season.

The Quakers began the evening on beam, where junior Kiersten Belkoff’s 9.7 continued her hot streak in the leadoff spot. Freshman standout Skyelar Kerico notched the highest score of the rotation and third-highest score of the meet with a 9.825, but the 48.775 left Penn in third place in the second session after the first rotation.

In the second rotation, the team moved to floor. Sophomore Emma Davies received the second-highest score of the night with a 9.9 for her routine, the same as last year’s championships and her career high. She was followed by freshman Marissa Lassiter’s career-high-tying 9.875. 

Becker complimented the stability and excellence of Penn's freshman class, saying "every freshman has scored a 9.8 or above on at least one of their events.” 

Penn’s season-high 49.075 on floor moved the Quakers into the lead heading into the third rotation and vault. This event was led off by Kerico’s Yurchenko full, which received a 9.775 — the second-highest score of the night. Sophomore Olivia VanHorn’s 10.0 start value vault, the handspring pike half, closed out the rotation with a 9.7. Despite the 48.525 team score, the Quakers held onto the lead heading into bars in their final rotation.

Junior Sara Kenefick led off the bars rotation with a 9.625 and her signature double-twisting flyaway dismount. Kristen Kuhn in the third spot notched a 9.85, the best of the rotation and second best of the meet. Even before McCaleigh Marr was set to go, the Quakers had locked up conference championship trophy. 

The GEC held its first conference championships a year ago in 2022. Penn won last year with an all-time best of 196.950. A second win in a row further cements the team’s legacy as one of the best in the history of the program. 

To make the win even sweeter, Penn took home a near-sweep of conference awards. Becker was named Coach of the Year, Casey Rohrbaugh and Cassie Hageman were named Assistant Coaches of the Year, Lassiter was named Newcomer of the Year, and Marr was named co-Specialist of the Year alongside Brown’s Julia Bedell.

Next year, Marr will use her final year of eligibility at Michigan as a graduate transfer.

Becker says the win feels “even sweeter” after the Ivy League missed parts of two seasons during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Last year, it felt as if we were reintroducing Penn gymnastics to the NCAA,” she said. “This year felt more of an overall focus on consistency, and I think we definitely accomplished that”.

For now, though, Becker is looking into the offseason as a preparation for the future. “The long-term goal,” she said, “is to qualify to NCAA postseason … we know this is something we are definitely capable of.” 

Though the Quakers will not qualify for NCAA Regionals as a team this season, there are spots available for individual qualifiers, as Marr did last year for beam. Nominations for individual regional qualifiers will be announced on March 20.