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Seniors Reflect Ahead of Final Home Meet

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By Tom Shively, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There comes that bittersweet point in every season that it's time to say goodbye to the student-athletes who have meant so much to a program during their careers. Come Saturday, it will be that time for six Penn State men's gymnastics seniors, as they compete at Rec Hall for the final time in their careers. 

Leroy Clarke Jr., Franz Card, Dominic DiFulvio, Joseph Boyle, Christian McSwain and Jeremy Munn will all take the home floor for one last ride against the Iowa Hawkeyes before moving on to bigger and better things. 

This weekend gives the guys a chance to look back on their years as Nittany Lions, many of them appreciating all Penn State has done for them in their time here.

"I will miss the people the most," Clarke Jr. said. "Without the people I've met on my journey here, it wouldn't be as special as it has been. I've had some of my best memories and lessons learned from the people I have met through this university and I look forward to building on the relationships that I've started here."

"I'd definitely say [my favorite part of Penn State] was the brotherhood," Munn said. "Going up and the pressure builds, and then you hit your set and turn to the bench and your team is there cheering loud for you and is just as pumped for you."

The guys also shared some of their favorite memories from Penn State, many including the Big Ten championship won by the team in 2015 but many more about the camaraderie and relationships built up by these young men as they journeyed through the roller coaster of college life. 

"Mine would have to be my first time competing at Rec Hall," Card said. "I competed on high bar for the team and it was just a great feeling immersing myself in the brotherhood after and kind of being more a part of the team." 

"Being in front of the home crowd and being able to hear everyone cheering and being in front of our friends and family," DiFulvio said. "It's an amazing opportunity to be able to have, and you don't get to have that every day."

"My favorite memory gymnastics wise was when we won Big Tens at home," McSwain said. "My favorite memory school wise was the 2017 THON pep rally. I am really going to miss the friendship and brotherhood of this team." 

Maybe not as vocal as in years past, the Nittany Lion seniors still found a way to be heard during competition, including a plethora of awards and honors such as earning the aforementioned Big Ten title two years ago. Clarke Jr. is the most recent to rack up an award, earning the National Gymnast of the Week honor just last week. 

"Every group is tough, they're all just special in their own way," head coach Randy Jepson said. "This group was a little more soft-spoken, but they were so together and they did everything asked of them. That's why they improved and got so much better." 

This final home meet serves as one last chance for the seniors to put on a show in front of the home fans while building momentum for the postseason, and they are certainly relishing the opportunity to do so. 

"It's definitely an important note heading into postseason," DiFulvio said. "That's something that we really want to do."

"It's definitely a personal goal of mine to finish strong and have a good memory of my time here as a Penn State gymnast," Card said. 

"It's always a lot better to end on a good note and it's a lot more fun when you can nail your set and go back to the bench with your head held high," Munn added. 

One thing these Nittany Lions will not miss is the course load, as Boyle is looking forward to finally being done with organic chemistry (although he will miss the school spirit and sense of community).

As far as future plans go, the paths for these guys go through many different areas. Card and Munn both hope to continue their gymnastics careers and head to the University Games this summer in Chinese Taipei. 

Whether or not this is the end for each individual senior, it's been one heck of a ride.

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