Knights travel to face two top teams


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Photo by Jeffrey Lazaro |

Sophomore Jenna Zito enters this weekend's quad meet coming off of a career-best performance on the balance beam.


Entering its last stretch of meets to end the season, the Rutgers gymnastics team looks to prove it can compete with national contenders.

The quad meet in College Park, Md., pits the Scarlet Knights against two of the top 36 ranked programs Friday, as well as three more opponents than their previous meet against SUNY Cortland where they earned the highest combined team score in seven years.

"We are trying to focus on our strongest routines — the ones that are going to hit and be consistent," said head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton. "These are some of the top teams in the country. We want to show them that we belong in that level as well."

Chollet-Norton said the available depth in the lineup means there is more flexibility of routine going into each meet, and the team can put the best routines and gymnasts with experience out to compete.

"We can't be happy with a 191 anymore," she said. "We have to put the routines that we know if they hit, we are a 194 team. So that's what we are going for."

Freshman Luisa Leal-Restrepo said that although Penn State and Maryland, two of the competing squads, are ranked No. 18 and No. 33, respectively, Rutgers is looking to go out and show that it improved to a 194 team.

Leal-Restrepo, who was named East Atlantic Gymnastic League (EAGL) Rookie of the Week on Tuesday after taking four event titles in the last meet, said because it is easier to get distracted watching the other teams do their routines, team support will help the most.

"The last weekend we had a dual meet, so we were really focusing … and didn't have time to look at other teams and that had a really good result," Leal-Restrepo said.

Chollet-Norton said that at this meet, the Knights won't have a bye and will be able to go straight through, ¬¬¬starting with bars and ending on beam.

"We are ending on beam, so we're really excited about that," she said. "We get our three strong lifts and beam is our strong event, but we can calm down when we get to beam."

Sophomore Jenna Zito, who struggled on beam until she scored a career high last meet, said the three strong events before beam can get the energy level up so the team can finish strong.

"We have the skills, we have the numbers¬ — now it's about perfecting the little things," Zito said. "I think it is putting the finishing touches on the routines and knowing that our skills are just as good as these teams."

Senior Leigh Heinbaugh said that having the conference recognize Leal-Restrepo with her EAGL award and sophomore Danielle D'Elia, who won an EAGL Specialist of the Week award on Jan. 25, inspires the team going into this meet.

"We can actually beat these teams, especially not since we haven't beaten them in a few years," Heinbaugh said.

Maryland (7-3) is coming off a three-meet road trip.

Maryland freshman Katy Dodds was named EAGL Specialist of the Week for her career-high performance for the second consecutive week on vault, posting a 9.900 to lead the Terrapins to a score of 194.225.

Penn State, ranked No. 18, scored a season-high 195.975 against North Carolina.

The Nittany Lions (6-4) have posted scores above 195 in five of its six winning meets this season.

William and Mary (3-10) has wins over Temple, Penn and West Chester, but is coming off a loss at its last meet.


Neil P. Kypers

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