Barbara Cantwell spent three years as a Penn gymnast, capturing numerous Ivy League and regional Championship titles, under the direction of her coach, and sister, Janet Cantwell.  Barbara spent her freshman year at Oklahoma State University on a full athletic scholarship, transferring to Penn after Janet encouraged her to return home to Philadelphia and join the Quaker team.

 

Cantwell proved very quickly that Penn was for her.  In her first season as a Quaker, and only the second full season of competition for Penn in the Ivy League, Cantwell won the all-around, balance beam, uneven bars and floor exercise at the Ivy League Championships in 1980.  She competed at the Pennsylvania Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (PAIAW) Championships and earned first place in the all-around.  She then went to the next level and finished fifth at the Eastern Regionals (EAIAW) in the all-around, which included a fourth-place finish on the uneven bars and a third-place finish on the floor.  Cantwell's standing at the Eastern's earned her a trip to the AIAW National Championships, where she placed 11th in the all-around.  Cantwell's exploits earned her Daily Pennsylvanian Winter Sport Athlete of the Year, Penn's Most Valuable Gymnast and PAIAW and Whelan & Whelan Jr. Sports Award accolades.

 

How does one follow an act that earned such prestigious awards in what was technically her rookie season at Penn?  How about defending her Ivy League all-around title, winning the PAIAW all-around and the EAIAW all-around?  Cantwell did just that as a junior in 1981, while serving as a captain for the Quakers.  She was named to the EAIAW All-Region team after leading the Quakers to their first undefeated regular season in program history (8-0).   Cantwell was named Penn's Most Valuable Gymnast and a PAIAW Whelan & Whelan Jr. Sports Award honoree for the second time, while also being named an All-Eastern All-Star Team member.

 

Cantwell went on to claim even more fame in the gymnastics world as a senior.  She was voted a team co-captain, won her third consecutive Ivy League all-around title and third straight PAIAW all-around championship.  After a third-place finish at the Easterns, Cantwell went on to represent the University of Pennsylvania at the AIAW National Championships, where she finished fourth in the all-around and second on the balance beam.  For her outstanding efforts, she was named All-America.  Penn's most heralded gymnast was named the Harnwell Award winner and the Father's Trophy Award winner in 1982 and was named to the Ivy League Silver Anniversary Honor Roll for Gymnastics by her peers in 1998.

 

"It was a very unique time for Pennsylvania gymnastics.  The team was still new and it took me some time to adjust to the environment of the workout facility and the caliber of gymnasts when I transferred to Penn ...  Two of my favorite memories are when I won my second of three Ivy League Championships when Penn hosted the Ivy Championships in The Palestra and many of my family and friends were there to see me defend my title.  The other fond memory is when I won the Gaylord P. Harnwell Award.  I felt extremely honored to have been given an award linked to such a prestigious figure in Penn's history.  It also meant so much to me because it was an honor that my fellow students elected me to win, even though I spent a lot less time with the students than most of the other honorees because I was always training for gymnastics." - Barbara Cantwell