July 21, 2018 | ° F

Cornell next step in quest for Nationals

Photo by Andrew Howard |

Freshman Jennifer Zito averages 9.328 on the bars and 9.397 on the beam, an area she believes the team must improve.

The Rutgers gymnastics team continues a stretch of difficult meets on Saturday when it travels to Ithaca, N.Y., to face Cornell. Following a razor-thin second-place finish to Bridgeport in a home quad-meet, the level of competition does not get any easier. Cornell, like Bridgeport, is in the hunt to go to USA Nationals.

Going to Nationals was head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton's goal since the beginning of the season. Performing well against teams that will be at Nationals is an important step in proving to other teams that her squad is at the same level.

"[Cornell is] going to USA Nationals," Chollet-Norton said. "We want to show that we belong."

After being absent from Nationals for several years, the Knights have more to prove than perennial powers. Chollet-Norton wants this season to be a chance for her team to reintroduce itself as a national contender.

"We haven't been to Nationals as a team in two years so we need to continue to show we belong," Chollet-Norton said.

While Cornell is a team that represents a distinct challenge for the Knights, Chollet-Norton's team sees a clear path to victory. The team recognizes that it is on the same level and everyone just needs to perform up to their ability.

"They are a good team that is in the hunt for Nationals, so it's going to be a tough meet," said junior Kiah Banfield. "We just need to stay focused and do our jobs."

After a disappointing performance on beam at the last meet, it became a point of emphasis for the entire team. Despite performing well on vault last meet, achieving a 9.325, freshman Jenna Zito recognizes that everyone on beam must improve.

"We have to work on beam," Zito said. "We need to not just make the routines but make them perfectly."

Following a comparably weak performance on vault earlier in the year, Chollet-Norton put her team in pressure situations by simulating meets to promote improvement. She decided to enact the same strategy this week to alleviate her team's beam struggles.

"We are going to keep putting them in pressure situations in practice," Chollet-Norton said. "We need to prove that we can stay on the beam."

If the Knights can shore up their weakness, Chollet-Norton believes that her squad is a team to be reckoned with.

"If we can finally hit on everything, we could be a 192, 193 team," Chollet-Norton said.

Josh Glatt

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