A Record-Breaking Season for Penn Gymnastics

The record books never had a chance. In Penn gymnastics’ first dual-meet of the season, sophomore Emily Petkun recorded two new personal-bests, which also placed her in the Penn record books, and the record-setting pace never stopped.

At every meet, the Quakers set the bar higher for themselves, recording both personal and team records. They set a new team record-high score three consecutive weeks, cumulating in a 194.6 at Texas on March 12. The Red and Blue also recorded new team-best home, ECAC Championship and Ivy Classic scores, posting 192.725, 193.65 and 194.175, respectively.

“Record-setting seasons like 2004 are sure signs of a team’s improvement,” said Head Coach Tom Kovic. “In this case it was a leap to a new and exciting level.” It impacted the team more from an inner confidence which grew throughout the season. That inner confidence naturally developed a keen focus and fierce competitive spirit I have not seen in a team since 1998.”

The Red and Blue finished the season with a program-best 12-5 record in dual-meets and clocked impressive finishes at three invitational tournaments around the country. However, the crowning moments for the 2004 Penn Gymnastics squad came in February and March when it won both the Ivy Classic and the ECAC Championships.

Individual Honors, Team Success

During Penn’s season of success, there were some individuals who catapulted the squad to their victories. Petkun continued her record-setting run throughout the season, averaging 38.39 in 10 all-around performances. She also recorded a personal-record 38.975 on March 7 at Boise State, which was the third-highest all-around score in program history. These accomplishments qualified her for the NCAA Regionals, where she finished 21st with a score of 36.85. Petkun was also named ECAC Co-Athlete of the Week on January 18 and March 7, ECAC Athlete of the Week on February 22 and Penn Athlete of the Week on February 23.

Sophomore Jessica Fuerst was named the Penn Athletics Athlete of the Week in March after placing second in the ECAC Gymnastics Championship on bars and beam. She recorded a personal-record 9.825 on bars and tied her personal high on beam with a 9.875 during the championship. Her score on beam also tied for fourth all-time in program history. She was named to the All-ECAC squad with first-team honors in both the bars and beam after the championship.

Four other Quakers earned All-ECAC honors. Senior Christy Green, junior Leah Moon and sophomore Laura Duros earned first-team honors while sophomore Christina Anzalone and Moon received second-team nods. Green and Duros received first-team selections on floor as the duo tied for second overall with a score of 9.875 at the championship. Rounding out the Red and Blue's All-ECAC representation was Anzalone, who earned a second-team spot after scoring a 9.8 on bars, which tied her for fourth overall. Moon earned her two selections with a tie for third on vault with a 9.7 and a tie for fifth on beam, also with a 9.7.

Coaching Greatness

The thrills never stopped for Kovic as he watched his student-athletes break both personal and school records, as well as winning the squad’s first Ivy Classic title since 2000 and its first ECAC Championship since 1998. But the icing on the cake came for Kovic when he was named the NCAA Northeast Region Coach of the Year after the completion of his 17th season at Penn. At Penn, Kovic has a dual-meet record of 119-67 and has led the Quakers to eight Ivy Classic victories and two ECAC championships.

“Being named NCAA Regional Coach of the Year was very special considering I was voted in by my coaching peers,” Kovic said. “It is an honor and a privilege.”

In his third season with the Quakers, Assistant Gymnastics Coach John Ceralde was named ECAC Assistant Coach of the Year. Said Kovic, “John deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the team’s success and improvement during the past three seasons. He is the most loyal and productive assistant coach I have worked with in my seventeen years at Penn. Our teams will only grow stronger with John’s assistance.”

Banner Champions

With their victories in the Ivy Classic and the ECAC Championship, the Red and Blue added two more banners to the already impressive collection the program has amassed over the years. At the Ivy Classic, the Quakers had to overcome two early failed routines. They dug in however and focused during the vault en-route to recording new program records in the vault and bars, and the second highest in the floor.

On the vault, Penn put together back-to-back all-time scoring highs to finish with a 48.675 in the event. Freshman Erica Beck recorded a new personal-best and placed second all-time in program history with a 9.8 to finish third, while sophomore Julie Kikla finished fourth with a 9.775, third all-time in Penn history. They were followed by junior Laura Bouchelle in fifth with a 9.75, which was good for fourth all-time at Penn.

Following the vault, the Quakers needed to nail the bars in order to win. So they went out and set a new program record with a 49.075 performance. Anzalone led the way with the second-highest score in program history, a 9.925. Kikla placed third with a new personal-record 9.875, good for fourth all-time at Penn.

Just three weeks later, Penn Gymnastics snapped a five-year ECAC title-drought by recording a team-record 193.65 at the championships to pace them to victory at The Palestra. The Red and Blue outscored second-place Cornell by 1.225 to win the 2004 ECAC championship.

The Quakers did not win a single event, instead placing second overall on bars and beam and third overall on vault and floor. The Red and Blue began the championships on the bars, recording a 48.55, which was the third-highest score in program history. They followed that with a 48.125 on beam and a 49.0 on floor, the fourth-highest score in team history. In their final event, the Red and Blue recorded a 47.975 on vault to secure the victory.

In winning the event, Penn recorded the program's third-highest score in team history as well as the highest home score ever. The Quakers posted the six-highest team scores in program history in their last six meets of the season.

The Red and Blue will keenly feel the loss of Green and fellow seniors Tricia Chan and Casey Pare. The three co-captains were mainstays of the team, proving to be consistent performers in all events that they were entered in, as well as great leaders.

“Tricia was a mainstay on beam and bars,” said Kovic. “Christy was sensational on vault, bars and floor and Casey was a superb vaulter. Most importantly I will miss their leadership, which was the best I have seen in my coaching career.”

Penn is returning 12 letter winners in 2005, including six seniors. Joining them will be three members of the Class of 2008, Kimberly Chin, Kelly Sievert and Stephanie Ortiz. Said Kovic, “Balanced is the best way to describe the 2005 squad. The strongest and most talented team ever will have a lot to live up to after the great success of the 2004 squad. We have no weak event and a very deep and strong senior class who will carry the baton to even higher levels.”