November 17, 2018 | ° F

Sophomore walk-on proud of steady contributions

When Kiah Banfield came to the Banks as a walk-on last season, she never thought she would be in a position to contribute so soon.

Banfield is not only contributing for the Rutgers gymnastics team, but is an important cog in the Scarlet Knights rotation.

"Absolutely not," the sophomore said of whether she thought she could contribute this early in her career. "When I came to Rutgers as a walk-on last year, I thought I would have to fight for my spot, but I really didn't think I would make lineups until I was a junior or senior so by being here as a sophomore I've been able to help out the team — that means a lot."

The Newbury Park, Calif., native has been one of the Knights most consistent performers all season, excelling on the vault and floor. Banfield is coming off a meet in which she scored a season-high 9.775 on the floor.

But she said that it is a toss-up between vault and floor for her best event.

"I really like floor, but I also think I like vault a little bit better, so I'll say vault is my best," she said.

The scores would seem to agree with her. Banfield has consistently posted marks higher than 9.5 and was one of the few Knights to stand out when RU traveled to nationally ranked Penn State scoring a team-leading 9.650 on vault.

"Repetition, doing it the same every time," Banfield said about the key to a strong vault. "Practicing is the key because practice makes perfect."

As she continues to rise up the depth chart, Banfield realizes the progress she has made in the last year.

"I feel a lot better [this season]," she said. "I didn't get that many meets last year, only like four or five, but this year it's more like 10 to 13 meets so just getting the repetition and practice over-and-over really helps."

Her growth over the past year has given her the opportunity to find her name in head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton's starting rotation for every meet this season, but Banfield is just looking to focus on the team's final two meets of the season.

"I feel like we are definitely coming together," she said. "It takes some time to gel and we are finally putting all together. It's like a big puzzle, it took us a while to fit it together right, but we got it now."

And now is the perfect time as the East Atlantic Gymnastic League Championships and USA Nationals loom on the horizon.

"That's what we're hoping for," Chollet-Norton said about her team's most recent performance that produced a season-high score of 192.050. "We have one more home meet and then hopefully we can take this show on the road and show people we are a good team. Win, losses don't really matter to us because we are looking to qualify people for nationals."

Banfield could very well be one of those people qualified for nationals, and just think — she could have walked on somewhere else.

Kyle Franko

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