Nationals trip rounds out season
This season has been a struggle for a single goal for the Rutgers gymnastics team. From the start of the season, head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton and her team had their sights set on one objective, getting to nationals as a team. On Wednesday, that goal will be realized.
After an impressive year that has seen several veteran athletes make striking recoveries from injuries and several freshmen emerge as top performers, the Scarlet Knights earned the right to travel to Denton, Texas, to compete in USA Nationals as a team for the first time since 2007.
"We haven't gone as a team for a little while," Chollet-Norton said. "The girls that went last year knew that we deserved to go as a team and we did it."
After a full season of striving to earn a place at nationals, Chollet-Norton wanted to ensure that her team did not think that its work was done after qualifying.
"I just told them that we made it, but it's a whole new season so we have to keep it up," Chollet-Norton said.
Last year the Knights sent five athletes to nationals, but being able to send the entire team is a significant accomplishment for the program. Chollet-Norton is not only pleased that her team made nationals but that they are going in ranked fourth.
"This is big because it's hard to make it as a team," Chollet-Norton said. "It's even bigger that we are going in fourth place."
While Rutgers must go up against higher ranked teams and other teams that they have already lost to, including Bridgeport, Chollet-Norton believes that her team is the strongest it has been all year.
"We have Prishani [Seebadri] back stronger and Sonny [Gerlach] getting more consistent," Chollet-Norton said. "After EAGL championships, the freshmen will be ready for the pressure."
After being unable to compete in the last meet of the year against North Carolina due to a foot injury, team MVP Jenna Zito is fully prepared to compete at nationals. At the EAGL championships, Zito was still working to round back into form, but at nationals the freshman should be fully capable.
"Jenna is now back into competition mode," Chollet-Norton said. "We are taking it light on her to keep her healthy but she is ready to go."
Not only does Chollet-Norton feel that her team is at its best right now, she believes that USA Nationals has a component of March Madness in it. She knows that the unexpected can happen and that any team has a chance.
"[Nationals is] like the NCAAs in basketball. Look at what Butler did," Chollet-Norton said. "We are a good team and we know that it's anybody's game."
As the first day of competition gets underway on Wednesday, Chollet-Norton set her team both a goal for the first round and the competition as a whole.
"For the first round we need to be in the top two," Chollet-Norton said. "We'd really like to make the finals."