Transfer complements recruiting class
For the Rutgers gymnastics team, the story of the season has been the overall depth on the roster. Much of that is a result of a strong freshman class that is able to perform at a high level from the start of its career.
But sophomore transfer Danielle D'Elia is making a profound impact of her own.
The Freehold, N.J., native is a 17-year veteran of Galaxy Gymnastics, finishing as a regional qualifier five times. Following a career in which she finished third in the state in 2007 and earned a spot on the high school national team, D'Elia elected to attend Central Michigan.
While she admits her career at Central Michigan did not work out, she does not regret her time there.
"It was a spontaneous decision [going to Central Michigan]. I just wanted to try something new." D'Elia said. "I realized it wasn't the best place for me, but I learned a lot there."
After her year at Central Michigan, which was highlighted by a 9.800 performance on floor exercises at the NCAA Northeast Regionals, D'Elia realized the best place for her would be Rutgers.
Rutgers afforded her the luxury of being close to her family, and while it was not her initial college destination, she knows now it is was the right one.
"Going to Rutgers has been the best decision," D'Elia said. "Rutgers is great because it is close to home and the program has been building over the years."
D'Elia proved herself to be every bit important as the highly-touted freshman class that head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton recruited this season.
D'Elia also proved she is capable of consistently performing well in three events this season. On the season, D'Elia averages 9.564 in bars, 9.336 in beam and 9.771 in floor exercises.
"She has done a great job for us from Day 1," Chollet-Norton said. "She works really hard in the gym, has a great attitude and is a great competitor. We are happy to have her on the team."
In the Knights' most recent meet at Maryland, D'Elia continued her strong season.
D'Elia took a top-five finish in floor exercises with a score of 9.825. On balance beam, an event the team struggled with previously, D'Elia tied for first on the team.
Her score of 9.725 helped the Knights post a team-high score in the event.
Despite being a newcomer, D'Elia already bought into the team concept that Chollet-Norton and her team stressed over the years. D'Elia recognizes that anyone on the team is capable of contributing beyond typical performances in meets, regardless of age or experience.
"I feel anyone can provide leadership. It doesn't matter what grade you are in," D'Elia said. "Leadership isn't just about how you compete on the floor — it's about how you practice, it's how your present yourself, it's how you get the team going."