Knights improve team score, finish third in D.C invitational
As is traditionally the case, the New Year ushered in the gymnastics season. The Rutgers gymnastics team competed twice during winter break to kick off the 2011 campaign.
On Jan. 16, the Scarlet Knights traveled to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Lindsey Ferris Invitational, a meet that featured several top-notch opponents.
Rutgers took third in a field of seven with a score of 191.725, finishing just behind host school George Washington and the winner, North Carolina.
Despite finishing third, the team not only showed improvement over last year's season average of 189.528, it showed dramatic progress from the last time the Knights competed in the Lindsey Ferris Invitational. The 2009 Knights only managed a score of 186.250 in the nation's capital.
The sophomore class, highlighted by returning athletes Jenna Zito and Emma Rose-Trentacosti and newcomer Danielle D'Elia, led the way for the Knights.
Trentacosti paced Rutgers on balance beam with a score of 9.725. D'Elia continued a strong start to her Rutgers career by posting a 9.775 in floor exercise. Zito, continuing where she left off from last season, turned in a strong performance all-around, scoring a 38.200, good for sixth overall.
The Knights opened their season at New Hampshire, falling 194.5-191.875. Despite dropping its first meet, the team showed drastic improvement over its debut performance last year of 188.925.
Head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton believes that although they lost by several points, her team should be encouraged by the performance.
"We were overall really happy with how the meet went," Chollet-Norton said. "We held some people back because it's the first meet of the year and the season is so long."
Chollet-Norton looked at a score of 190 early last season as an unofficial goal for her team. The fact that her team easily achieved it in the season opener gives her high hopes for the rest of the year.
"To put up the score that we did in our first meet shows how much depth and talent we have on this team," Chollet-Norton said. "We are out to surprise some teams this year."
While Chollet Norton is impressed with her team's debut score, she also recognizes that to achieve the results the team is striving for, it will need to show improvement.
"We need to be higher than 191," she said. "It's great because we haven't started that high since 2004, but we can go up three or four points from the first meet to the end of the season."
That improved depth is a result of a strong freshman class that is already showing the skills that excited Chollet-Norton when she was recruiting them.
Freshmen Alexis Gunzelman and Alyssa Straub posted identical scores of 9.700 in the vault to place fifth overall in the event. Fellow freshman Luisa Leal-Restrepo also turned in an impressive performance, scoring a 9.600 on vault and finishing with a 38.000 all-around score.
Despite believing that her freshman class preformed impressively, Chollet-Norton believes that the sky is the limit for her new athletes.
"It was the first meet for the freshmen to get the gitters out," Chollet-Norton said. "You will see more and more from them as the year goes on."
The Knights next compete against North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Brown in a quad meet at home on Jan. 22.