Knights try to gain momentum in Empire State
By Kyle Franko
Acting Associate Sports Editor
The Rutgers gymnastics team continues its season tonight on the road when the Scarlet Knights visit SUNY Cortland.
The Knights are coming off of a performance that produced their highest score of the season when they finished second in a tri-meet with Pittsburgh and Yale at the Livingston Recreation Center.
It was a performance that head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton said will give the team momentum as they face another road trip.
"It's definitely nice to have a performance like that before you have to go on the road again," she said.
Much of the Knights success will hinge on the health of senior all-arounder Latara Northcutt who was injured in warm-ups prior to RU's Jan. 31 meet at West Virginia. Northcutt was limited to just the vault in the last meet, but Chollet-Norton was still impressed with the seniors' leadership.
"Latara was big for us because we needed somebody," Chollet-Norton said. "We were not sure about the other two vaulters [Saturday], and she stepped in and said, ‘I can do it for you coach' and for me as a coach we really appreciate that."
RU (4-12) will also rely on the freshman duo of Danae Johnson and Nicole Schwartz. Johnson has been dynamite on the floor this season and is coming off a career-high 9.875.
Meanwhile, Schwartz is coming off a third place finish in the all-around after stepping in for the injured Northcutt. The meet marked the first time Schwartz competed in the all-around at the collegiate level.
The development of the team's freshmen has been a key this season for Chollet-Norton, and she said it is starting to pay off.
"Finally we are starting to get some quality athletes," she said. "When you get quality athletes, you are expected to [step up], and they are both [Johnson and Schwartz] level-10 gymnasts and they are used to pressure situations."
Sophomore Kiah Banfield and junior Prishani Seebardi are also coming off a big meet. Banfield recorded the top score for the Knights on vault with a 9.675 that placed her fifth in the meet, and Seebardi was strong on bars with a team high 9.725 that earned her a second place finish.
SUNY Cortland (7-6) enters the contest on the heels of a 184.250-181.250 win over Springfield College. The 184.250 mark posted by the Red Dragons was a season-high. But that number is still five points short of the season-high 189.575 posted by the Knights last time out.
Rutgers is 7-0 all-time against SUNY Cortland and defeated the Red Dragons 188.650-179.200 last season.