Strong close propels RU to second first-place finish
In others sports, enthusiasm is a rare trait to be celebrated.
In the NFL, for the last 20 years, fans watch Brett Favre emote with a childlike enthusiasm for the game. On the Rutgers men's basketball team, senior center Hamady N'Diaye's fire earns him extensive praise. The Rutgers gymnastics team, on the other hand, does not have one passionate standout; the entire team is genuinely excited to compete.
The Scarlet Knights hosted their first quad-meet of the season Saturday against Brockport, Cortland and Ursinus. They took first place with a score of 189.400, showing their trademark passion the whole way.
"They always have a great time," head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton said. "They all really like to show what they can do."
The Knights got off to a shaky start, performing below their expectations on bars and vaulting, however, the team bounced back on the beam and floor exercises to secure the win.
"We didn't have a good bar set. We could have been sharper on vaulting," Chollet-Norton said. "We came back and fought hard on the last two events. This team really does fight hard to get where they need to be."
Emblematic of that perseverance was junior Leigh Heinbaugh's performance on beam. While not her best showing of the year, Heinbaugh returned to the beam to finish her routine following a hard fall that appeared to hurt her leg.
Chollet-Norton recognizes how hard it is to finish a routing after falling.
"With gymnastics you are out there by yourself and every mistake is magnified," Chollet-Norton said. "Her getting up there and finishing shows what kind of character she has."
Another impressive show of perseverance came from senior Prishani Seebadri, performing in her second meet after several serious knee injuries that put her career in jeopardy. Seebadri led all bar performers with a score of 9.750.
Seebadri's return to competition not only helps the team with her high scores, but also provides experience to a young group of bar performers.
"We are a young bar group," Chollet-Norton said. "It's a bar squad that hasn't had a lot of experience. Having Prishani back is going to be huge."
The Knights' impressive freshmen class continued to show its poise and consistency throughout the meet.
Freshmen Jenna Zito and Nicole Romano finished in the top three of the all-around competition with Zito taking first and Romano third. Fellow freshman Emma-Rose Trentacosti also had a strong meet, taking first in balance beam with a score of 9.675 and achieving strong results in vault and bars.
"I think I did really well, but I want my scores to be higher," Romano said. "I always want more from myself."
In what is quickly becoming a trend, the floor exercise team closed out the meet with a strong performance. Zito and senior Kiah Banfield tied for first overall with a score of 9.675. While her score of 9.550 was not the highest, senior Alyssa Lewandowski's performance embodied the team's passionate attitude, barely seeming nervous at such a tense moment.
"I have a lot of fun out there," Lewandowski said. "I know it sounds selfish, but I just love the attention being on me. I know it sounds bad, but I just love it. "
The Knights featured several strong individual performances and finished with a team score that does not hurt their chances at nationals.
"We have been consistently in the 189.000 range, and as long as we stay in that area we should be fine," Chollet-Norton said.
The Knights return to action on Friday, Feb. 19, at Kent State in a tri-meet against the Golden Flashes and Northern Illinois.