By Nicole C. Maloy, W’95
Hanging out at the bar with Carissa Lim, C’16, Penn Varsity Gymnastics team member. You may notice a subtle size differential. (Side note – this is me demonstrating the full extent of my skills on this apparatus.)
Penn Gymnastics will open the season TONIGHT at Hutch! Details in red later in this post.
This past summer I was leaning forward, elbows on my knees, eyes wide, completely unaware of anything but the superhero-like feats of strength and agility executed by the spandex-clad individuals on my television screen during an elite gymnastics competition. This sport has always had this effect on me, as it has on many other fans, partially because the things that gymnasts do are simply not possible. And yet, there they are, doing them anyway.
One particularly tiny athlete on the uneven bars did not need to pike or straddle or otherwise adjust herself quite as much as the others did when swinging around the low bar. It struck me that, if the “tall” gymnasts are 5’4”, and they have to make big adjustments, what would the fantastic gymnastic life have been like for me at 5’9 ½”, hanging from arms that are disproportionately long? I had never seen uneven bars up close, and now I was curious to know how I, quite literally, measured up to them.
Enter Penn Gymnastics Assistant Coach Kimberly Parsons, who opened the doors of the team’s brand new, shiny, spectacular new training facility to me (the Nalitt Family Gymnastics Center was made possible by a gift from Penn gymnastics alumna, and proud Penn parent, Beth (Wasserstein) Nalitt, MD). The facility was dedicated last month at Homecoming 2013, after the team was honored at halftime for winning back to back Eastern conference championships in 2012 and 2013.
Yes, dear alumni. Penn Gymnastics took first place at the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division I Championships twice in a row, which is a first for any school in the Ivy League. Two team members went on to win additional honors at the 2013 USA Gymnastics Collegiate Nationals.
I have to draw attention to this, because, as you know, the University of Pennsylvania does not offer athletic scholarships. When one of our Varsity teams shines as brightly as this, I want the world to know! I mean, check out this hardware. Penn Quakers earned these! I feel the need to high-five someone!
Oh, these? These are just a few of their championship rings.
You must see some brief clips from the 2013 ECAC Championships this past spring. Seriously. Take a moment to watch these highlights of our Penn athletes dominating the competition on each apparatus.
Now I want you to see them in person so they can hear you cheer. If you are in Philadelphia, come support Penn Gymnastics TONIGHT, Friday, December 6 at 6PM at Hutchinson Gymnasium for the “Philadelphia Jamboree” against Temple University. Their next competition will be the GW Invitational in Washington, DC on Sunday 1/12 at 1PM, followed by one at home on Saturday 1/18 at noon against Illinois State. Check out the full 2013-2014 competition schedule to see when they might be near you so you can show your support wherever you can. And be sure to wear your red & blue! Let them know how proud you are. Mark your calendar for Saturday 3/22 at noon, when Penn Gymnastics will attempt to defend their title at the 2014 ECAC Division I Championships right here in Philadelphia at Temple University.
As for me, here I am grabbing the low bar, from my knees, arms still bent. To be fair, there is a woman on the team who is 5’7” tall, so perhaps there would have been hope for me afterall. And they can adjust the bar height a bit depending on the athlete. Still… let’s just say I’m glad I found the high jump.
For updates, you can follow Penn Gymnastics on YouTube at UPennGym, Twitter @PennGym, and Facebook at Penn Gymnastics. Special thanks to the Penn Gymnastics coaching staff for their hospitality, and I send them my very best wishes for a wonderful 2014 season!