PHILADELPHIA – The Penn gymnastics team begins its ECAC and Ivy Classic title defense this Sunday at the GW Invitational as the Quakers head to Washington, D.C. for their first regular season competition of the year. This will be the fourth year in a row that the Red and Blue will compete in the GW Invitational. The other teams that will be competing at the Charles E. Smith Center are Ivy rival Cornell, ECAC rival Temple, North Carolina, and the host Colonials.
As they prepare for 2013, the Quakers may have one of the toughest roads ahead as they look to defend their ECAC and Ivy Classic titles. Last season, Penn travelled up to Ithaca, N.Y. and outperformed the competition when it counted, winning its second consecutive Ivy Classic title, and its first consecutive titles since they won four straight from 1997-2000. Later in the year they were in the advantageous situation of hosting the ECAC Championships at The Palestra. They used that home advantage to have a record-breaking day, upsetting favored Towson by .025.
This year will be a different story. Penn will be at home just once this season when they host Bridgeport at The Palestra on Feb. 17 due to ongoing construction on their regular home, Hutchinson Gymnasium. Other than that, the Quakers will be travelling to New Haven, Conn. for the Ivy Classic and Ithaca for the ECACs.
Outlook for 2013
This year’s senior class will have some strong contributors. Dana Bonincontri finished last season as one of Penn’s two NCAA Regional qualifiers in the all-around. She was named first-team USAG All-America in the all-around, vault, bars, and beam. In addition, she was named to the first-team All-ECAC for all-around and vault, and second-team on beam and floor. Kirsten Strausbaugh is a Quaker co-captain and the other all-around NCAA regional qualifier. She was named the team MVP last season in addition to being a first-team USAG All-America, in all-around, bars, and floor, and second-team on beam. Lastly, she was first-team All-ECAC on bars and floor.
Additionally, Megan Milavec was a first-team USAG All-American in the all-around and second-team All-ECAC on bars. Haleigh Zillges and the other Penn co-captain Kristen Hughes were members of the ECAC and USAG All-Academic Teams, and Hughes was also an NACGC Scholastic All-American.
The junior class will also be expected contribute. Keolamau Yee missed all of last season with an injury, and will start this season recovering as well. Once healthy, Yee is fully capable of competing at a high level for the Quakers. Nicki Valenti will contribute for the Red and Blue as a floor specialist and Diana Moock, an ECAC and USAG All-Academic team member, and Mia Madlambayan will also contribute.
Leading the pack of sophomore performers will be Amber Woo. The Port Richmond, Calif. native was named first-team All-ECAC on beam and second-team All-ECAC in all-around and floor. After an outstanding season, consisting of a first-place finish on beam at the ECACs, Woo was named Penn’s Rookie of the Year, as well as a three-time ECAC Rookie of the Week. Makeda Constable contributed last season as a specialist on bars, beam, and floor. After a slow start to her rookie year, Constable finished strong, and for her efforts was named Penn’s most improved gymnast.
Amanda Schlaefer started off her rookie season extremely well – finishing first on beam in two out of the three meets she competed in, adding a third-place finish on vault in one, en route to winning ECAC Rookie of the Week on Jan. 17 of last season. Unfortunately, an injury kept her from competing the rest of the year. She is finishing her recovery from that injury and will look to continue her early season success from 2012. Kaitlyn Reszkowski will contribute on floor and Wynne Levy will provide depth on vault. The foursome of Jennifer Silver, Dara DiLeo, McKenzie Davis, and Sara Allan will contribute to the already-stellar team depth for the Quakers.
This year’s freshman class is an outstanding one, and will help make up for some of the departed seniors from last year’s championship squad. Elyse Shenberger and Carissa Lim will be competing in their first-ever collegiate meet at GW on Sunday. Shenberger will start on bars, beam, and floor, and the team has high aspirations for her as a future all-around contributor. Lim will be a main factor on floor, as well as vault and beam in 2013. Amber Hu will be an alternate this weekend and has high bars and beam aspirations. Emma Craig has a future on floor, beam, and bars, but is currently recovering from a preseason injury. Morgan Venuti and Emily Paterson will bring some depth on bars and Paterson on vault as well.
Head coach John Ceralde will begin his seventh season as the head coach of the Quakers. Ceralde has seen the program continue its history of success under his watch, helping his team to three Ivy Classic, one ECAC team title, five ECAC individual champions, and seven individual NCAA qualifiers. Joining him in 2013 as the new assistant coach will be Kim Parsons. The former James Madison standout joins the Penn staff after spending last season as an assistant with the Temple program. The season before that, she served as the associate head coach for MIT.