Record-setting showing honors Chollet-Norton
Regardless of the outcome, year in and year out the alumni meet is a time for both current and past Rutgers gymnasts to celebrate. There was even more reason to rejoice this year than usual.
The Rutgers gymnastics team posted the third highest score in school history en route to a decisive victory over Ursinus and Bridgeport. The Scarlet Knights' score of 194.150 left little drama in defeating second-place team Bridgeport's 191.850.
Head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton was overwhelmed with emotion following her team's performance and the reception she received from the alumni at the event. While the meet itself is traditionally to honor alumni, this year's meet focused on honoring Chollet-Norton, who plans to retire at the end of the season.
"This was a team effort, not one person carried us. It was an outstanding meet." Chollet-Norton said. "It was an emotional experience and it was nice to have so many of the kids I coached back here."
After such a strong showing, Chollet-Norton still finds aspects of her team's performance she knows it can improve upon.
"Firstly, we didn't even have Jenna [Zito], which was a big loss for us," Chollet-Norton said. "We weren't very sharp on vaulting. I always tell the girls that we should be a 194-195 team, so we always have things we can improve on."
In addition to the historic team performance, freshman Luisa Leal-Restrepo etched her name in the record books with her all-around performance.
Leal-Restrepo captured victories on the bars, balance beam and floor exercise en route to a school record score of 39.375. The previous school record of 39.300 was the high mark for more than a decade.
"I know what I can do and I knew I could do this well, but I know I can do even better," Leal-Restrepo said. "I'm working hard to get better but this was a pretty good meet."
The Knights struggled this season to perform well in all four events. Most notably, the Knights had issues staying on beam, but after several solid performances, it all came together.
The team finished with a 48.000 on balance beam, beating its previous season best. Beam specialist and senior Leigh Heinbaugh was proud of her teammates for being able to finally deliver a performance they know they are capable of.
"We did a great job today," Heinbaugh said. "I'm just so excited with how we performed. It was a team effort and I'm proud of the whole team."
The meet marked the third of four home meets this year for the Knights.
Rutgers closes out its home schedule with a Senior Day meet next Saturday against Cornell, Southern Connecticut State, West Chester and Yale. The meet represents Chollet-Norton's final home meet of her career.