August 18, 2019 | 81° F

RU capitalizes on Pitt errors to finish second

Photo by The Daily Targum |

Senior Kiah Banfield, above, and freshman Alyssa Straub tied for a sixth-place finish in the vault with scores of 9.725. Freshman teammate Luisa Leal-Restrepo won the event with a 9.800, part of an impressive day for the Cali, Colombia, native, who also won the all-around competition.

Following its biggest victory in recent history, the Rutgers gymnastics team finished second in a tri-meet against two tough opponents in West Virginia and Pittsburgh.

Coming into the meet, head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton expressed her desire to compete with Pittsburgh.

The Scarlet Knights accomplished that goal, finishing with a 191.50, ahead of the Panthers' -189.025. But defeating Pittsburgh was not the accomplishment Chollet-Norton anticipated it being.

"They self-destructed," Chollet-Norton said of Pittsburgh's performance. "Beam was the worst for all three teams, but Pittsburgh wasn't able to recover."

Chollet-Norton was concerned about the struggles on beam, but she was pleased with her team's ability to bounce back from a poor performance in the event.

"They didn't fall apart after beam," Chollet-Norton said. "I always tell my girls they have to bring it and they really did fight after beam."

Despite noting the positive implications of her team's resiliency, Chollet-Norton recognizes that for her team to reach scores in the range she wants, it will need to improve upon limiting its mistakes.

"We have to figure out the problems in the gym," Chollet-Norton said. "We have to practice as if it's a meet and compete as if it's practice."

The team also faltered on floor exercises — an event that is ordinarily the team's strength. After relying on floor exercise for the victory at home, the Knights were unable to put together clean routines.

"We had two falls on floor that we didn't have at home," Chollet-Norton said. "We didn't have our best routines, but we will figure it out this week."

One of the bright spots for Rutgers continues to be freshman Luisa Leal-Restrepo. In only her fourth collegiate meet, Leal-Restrepo took first place in all-around scoring with a personal season high of 38.850. Chollet-Norton believes that Leal-Restrepo is only beginning to scratch the surface of her talent.

"She will be one of the top athletes at the East Atlantic Gymnastics League championships," Chollet-Norton said.

But Leal-Restrepo's performance may not have been possible without a shift in the lineup order prior to the meet. Chollet-Norton recognized that Leal-Restrepo was struggling on bars and made a choice that seems to have solved the problem.

"She can't wait around to go last on bars," Chollet-Norton said. "We moved her to first and it worked out."

Chollet-Norton made it clear that with her new team depth, there is more accountability for mistakes.

"We have so much depth that the lineup is not set," Chollet-Norton said. "There are no guarantees for anyone."

The Knights next compete at the Livingston Recreation Center on Friday in a tri-meet against Bridgeport and Brown.

Josh Glatt

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