July 23, 2018 | ° F

RU sets record scores despite late changes

Although an injury forced a last-minute change to the routines, the Rutgers gymnastics team turned a dual meet against Cortland into a record-setting event.

The Scarlet Knights recorded a combined team score of 193.525 at Saturday's meet at Corey Gymnasium in New York — the highest score since a 2004 quad meet.

An injury kept freshman Alyssa Straub out of the competition and prompted some late changes to the routine.

"[The score] is just a testament to the girls and the depth that we have," said head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton. "We can switch like that and not lose a step."

Behind freshman Luisa Leal-Restrepo's record-tying performance of 9.875 on vault, the Knights combined to score 48.825, breaking the previous school record.

A member of the Columbian national team, Leal-Restrepo also placed first in bars, floor exercise and all-around to help Rutgers to its victory.

Leal-Restrepo and sophomore Jenna Zito took the top two all-around spots, setting career high scores with 39.175 and 38.725, respectively.

The team showed marked improvement in its beam performance, hitting five out of six routines, said senior Leigh Heinbaugh.

"We have been working on our confidence a lot in the gym and we go out there and we are not tentative because we are confident in our skills," Heinbaugh said.

The confidence could be seen in Zito, who took the event with a career-best of 9.775.

Zito, a Rockaway, N.J., native, struggled on beam in her past few meets and said finally hitting the routine was a much needed boost.

"We had really good momentum as a team and we had a lot of really great routines — that was really helpful," she said. "My teammates were doing their part and I just had to do mine."

Chollet-Norton said it was outstanding to see Zito pull off her routine despite her struggles.

"We don't like to pull people because they are falling, so we gave her another opportunity and she did a great job," Chollet-Norton said.

Chollet-Norton said the momentum built after each routine and it was the combined effort by the team that propelled it to the top.

"It wasn't just one star," she said. "Yes, [Leal-Restrepo] did great, but her 9.900 on floor wouldn't have broken the floor [exercise record] unless [the team] hit the other events like they did."

In her final season with Rutgers after announcing her retirement, Chollet-Norton said the team is working hard to end her career on a high note.

"We got it together at the right time," she said. "The next meets are tough meets. We are going in with confidence."

Heinbaugh said she is also happy to see the hard work from the past three years reflect in the scores.

"It's good to know [Chollet-Norton] is leaving on such a high note," she said. "It's really cool to be a senior and be on such a good team."


Neil P. Kypers

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