Funded opposition offers challenge at tri-meet
A trip to Ohio in the dead of winter under any circumstances is hardly a cause for celebration. For the Rutgers gymnastics team, the long journey to Ohio will be unfavorable because of the level of competition they will face upon arrival.
The Scarlet Knights participate in a tri-meet tomorrow against host Kent State and Northern Illinois. Both schools represent a distinct challenge for the Knights. Kent State began the season ranked 26th in the country. Northern Illinois is coming off a season-high score of 192.425.
Heading into the meet, head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton understands going against these two powerhouse programs offers little possibility of victory. She recognizes that her team can only perform up to its capabilities and that winning is secondary to her team scoring well.
"We are going to go out [and] try to do our best," Chollet-Norton said. "We just have to get a good score on the road."
The constant struggle for Chollet-Norton is funding. Competing against programs like Kent State, which possess full funding, is a losing proposition for the RU program that, while steadily receiving more money, is still not on par with the top programs monetarily.
"[Kent State] has full funding," Chollet-Norton said. "They have full scholarships to offer and that gets the best athletes."
The strong probability of losing has not stopped Chollet-Norton from scheduling meets against fully funded teams in an effort to build the program for the future. Going into meets like the one tomorrow, Chollet-Norton looks to impart upon her team a sense of perspective. While not trying to discourage her team, Chollet-Norton offers no illusions about victory.
"We aren't going to go in there saying we can beat them," Chollet-Norton said. "We are going to go in there and do the best that we can do."
This season, as her team has competed against teams with superior funding, Chollet-Norton has stressed the big picture. While obviously focused on every meet, the team has its sights set on competing at nationals as team.
"They realize that they are good enough to go to Nationals," Chollet-Norton. "If we continue to perform the way we have, it is a realistic goal."