Tight loss provides added motivation for Nationals
In front of an Alumni Day crowd of 821 fans, the Rutgers gymnastics team came up just short of victory in its first nighttime home meet of the year. The Scarlet Knights placed second in a highly competitive quad-meet Saturday, .125 shy of first place Bridgeport. While ultimately falling short, the Knights put up an impressive score of 190.87.
Also in the crowd at Alumni Day was a surprising guest in Athletic Director Tim Pernetti.
"Just because certain sports generate more revenue doesn't mean they are more important," Pernetti said. "I thought the meet was great. They came up a little bit short but I was very impressed with how hard they worked."
While not able to attain her goal of winning the meet, head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton is still pleased that her team competed with three teams that should be at USA Nationals. Despite not being the result she wanted, Chollet-Norton believes her team's performance validated what she told her team all year.
"We wanted to show we belong at USA Nationals," Chollet-Norton said. "We came out and competed."
On vault, the Knights featured several strong performances, highlighted by a pair of 9.800's from freshman Jenna Zito and senior Alyssa Lewandowski. As a team, RU posted a season-high on vault with a 48.550.
While recently struggling on bars, the Knights managed to rebound with a strong performance in the event. Over the week, Chollet-Norton had her team perform in simulated meets to prepare for pressure situations, a decision that appeared to facilitate a strong bars showing.
Freshmen Jayne Jeffreys and Emma-Rose Trentacosti led the team with scores of 9.600 and 9.500 respectively.
"Doing pressure situations during the week really helped on bar," Chollet-Norton said.
The one event that the Knights struggled on was balance beam. While the practice in pressure situations served the team well on bars, the beam team could not continue the momentum from the first two events.
"You have hit four for four in a pressure situation," Chollet-Norton said. "Beam just didn't work out for us today."
While the beam team as a whole didn't perform up to standards, there were several bright spots. Zito continued a strong meet with a 9.500 and junior Leigh Heinbaugh scored a 9.400.
Heading into the final rotation, the Knights trailed Bridgeport 144.475 to 142.000. Despite the pressure, floor exercise continued to be a team strength.
Junior Kiah Banfield led the Knights with a career-best performance of 9.900 to finish first in the event. Supplemented by a 9.850 from Zito and a 9.775 from Lewandowski, the Knights finished with a season high 48.875 on floor.
"It was pretty awesome that I got a 9.900," Banfield said. "I wasn't too nervous because I knew I had to go out there and do my job."
The loss to Bridgeport, a team that the Knights plan to compete against should they go to Nationals, seemed to only give the team extra incentive.
"When we go to Nationals, we are going to beat them," Banfield said.