The women's gymnastics team finished second of eight teams in the inaugural Gymnastics East Conference Championship held at the Pizzitola Sports Center on Saturday.
The team set program records in the parallel uneven bars (49.225), the floor exercise (49.2) and the all-around (195.975), but fell just short of Penn, who posted an all-around score of 196.95.
“They came in here on a mission,” Head Coach Sara Carver-Milne said. “They left it all out on the floor and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Angela Xing ’24 and Julia Bedell ’25, both of whom were tied for second in vault, and Abby Contello ’23 and Taylor Schulze ’25, who were tied-second in uneven parallel bars and balance beam, respectively, were named to the all-conference first team. Co-captain Mei Li Costa ’22, tied-fifth in vault, Ella Poley ’23.5, tied-fourth in bars, Maya Davis ’25, tied-fourth in floor exercise, and Bedell, tied-fourth in floor exercise, earned second-team honors.
“We had high expectations for today,” Costa said, adding that the Bears “absolutely obliterated them.”
“It was one of those meets where you knew that nobody was going to fall,” she added. “They got up on the equipment and you were like, ‘That’s a hit routine.’”
In the post-meet awards ceremony, Costa was also awarded the GEC’s performance of the year award for her Ivy League-record 9.975 score on bars in a March 6 meet against the University of Bridgeport.
The Bears began the championship meet with a near-flawless performance on bars, with Sophia Petrillo ’22, Paige Richter ’24, Shulze, Contello, Poley and Costa combining for an impressive 49.225, the highest total score in any event in program history. Contello, Poley and Richter set career-highs, with Contello earning a near-perfect 9.925.
“My warm-up wasn’t great, but I knew that if I (could) just do what I do in the gym then the outcome would be great,” Contello said.
The Bears next moved to the balance beam, where Schulze’s 9.875 score led Brown to a 48.575 total. But the performance could not match up to Penn’s staggering 49.225 score on the beam later in the meet.
The Bears continued to excel in the floor exercise with Davis and Bedell both posting career-best 9.9 scores to help the team reach a 49.2, which is a program record in the event.
Finally, on the vault, Brown posted a 48.975, which led all teams. None of the six Bruno vaulters finished with a score below a 9.675.
To add to its superiority on the beam, Penn was able to narrowly best Brown’s record-breaking performance on the bars and the floor exercise to finish with a 0.975 lead over the Bears.
“I think it’s always a little bit disappointing,” Costa said of coming up just short of the team win. “But I think we surpassed our own expectations of how we were (going to) do and Penn had an absolutely incredible day.”
Brown’s results have seen a steady increase since the beginning of the season, when the Bears scored 188.7 in a meet at Yale. In three of the last four meets, Brown has set a new season high.
Carver-Milne said that progression was by design.
“Coming back from COVID, we had some people on our team that hadn’t trained for 18 months. Gymnastics is a very risky sport. … We had to be really careful (in the beginning),” she said. “That was our plan the whole time: We’re going to go at it slowly, and then we’ll add difficulty as the season goes along and we get back to our competition shape.”
After their historic performance on Saturday, the Bears will find out this week which gymnasts have qualified for NCAA Regionals and USA Gymnastics Collegiate Nationals.
According to Carver-Milne, Brown has secured the fifth seed in the team event at USAG Nationals. The event, to be hosted by Cornell April 8 to 10, will feature eight teams competing in two semifinals, with the top two from each session advancing to the final.
“That’s pretty huge,” Carver-Milne said of qualifying. “We haven’t been to nationals as a team (since 2018). We’ve got a good shot at getting into team finals and potentially winning it all.”
“We are capable of more,” Costa said after the conference championship. “We are going to come back for nationals and do even better.”