Fully-funded Penn St. provides tall task
By Kyle Franko
Associate Sports Editor
It is crunch time for the Rutgers gymnastics team.
The Scarlet Knights have a stern test when they travel to State College, Pa., for a quad-meet with Penn State, New Hampshire and Bridgeport.
Rutgers head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton said her team is excited for the challenge that the meet presents.
"It is a very important meet and the girls are really excited," she said. "It's an away score that we need to qualify for USA Nationals and I expect it to be a high scoring meet."
RU (5-12) is coming off its two best meets of the season, the latter of which is a 187.500-183.500 victory over SUNY Cortland. Prior to the victory over the Red Dragons, the Knights posted a season-high score of 189.575 in a second place finish at a home tri-meet with Pittsburgh and Yale.
Senior Latara Northcutt will return to the floor exercise after only participating in the vault the previous two weeks due to a knee injury. Northcutt will still be a scratch from the bars and beam, Chollet-Norton said.
With Northcutt absent from the all-around for the last two meets, freshman Nicole Schwartz picked up the slack in the all-around, securing a second place finish in the all-around with a score of 37.750. It was only the second time Schwartz competed in the all-around in her college career.
"It's nice to get Latara [Northcutt] and Nicole [Rose] back on the floor," Chollet-Norton said. "It gives us some depth, which is positive, but it's just a shame that the injury bug hit us because we would be a much stronger team."
One of the issues that concerns Chollet-Norton is the resources that other teams have at their disposal. Both Penn State and New Hampshire are fully funded programs with more scholarships than RU. Bridgeport is a Division II program where gymnastics is counted as an equivalence sport, making funds more readily available.
At RU it does not make a difference whether the amount of money given is a full-ride or $1,000; it still counts as one of the 12 scholarships Chollet-Norton has to offer.
"It's very difficult to compete against schools like that," she said. "I feel like we are starting to get there — getting extra dollars and taking the program to the next level."
The Nittany Lions (5-3) have competed against the nation's most elite completion and enter the meet ranked No. 17 in the country. New Hampshire (10-3) has been dominant at times this year and holds a road victory over North Carolina. The Wildcats defeated the Knights in their Jan. 10 home opener.
Bridgeport (8-5) is the No. 1 ranked team in Division II and holds a victory over RU in a quad-meet held at Temple earlier this season.