Senior Day serves as head coach's final meet
The Rutgers gymnastics team will compete not only against four other teams on Saturday, but also its emotions. The Scarlet Knights host Cornell, Southern Connecticut State, West Chester and Yale in their final home meet of the season and for members of the senior class, the final home meet of their careers.
Additionally, head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton, a veteran of 25 seasons at Rutgers, is retiring at the end of the season. For both the senior class and its coach, it will be the last time they get the chance to compete in the building they call home.
Following an emotion-filled celebration at the end of the alumni meet last Saturday, Chollet-Norton recognizes she will need to make an effort to keep her emotions in check for her final meet at the Livingston Recreation Center.
"It is going to be an emotional day, but we will try our best to keep it together and compete to the best of our ability," Chollet-Norton said. "We need to keep building up momentum heading into EAGLS so we have to keep focused."
But the Knights will not attempt to ignore the significance of Chollet-Norton's final home meet. Rather, they will strive for the best scores to send her off in Piscataway on a high note.
"Chrystal is such a great person and we love her so much. She has given us so much," said freshman Luisa Leal-Restrepo, who set a school record all-around performance. "We need to do it for her and we want her to leave on the best meet of her life."
For her senior athletes, it will be one last opportunities to compete in the building that they refer to before each home meet as "our house." Senior Leigh Heinbaugh acknowledges that it will be an emotional experience, but she isn't worried it will affect her performance.
"I'll just focus on what I'm doing and cheer on the other girls," Heinbaugh said. "It's a great way to keep calm during a meet. I want to go out there and set my career-best. It's just me and the beam, so I just have to remember I've it done it a million times."
Fellow senior Kiah Banfield shares her teammate's mindset and acknowledges that even though the meet will hold increased significance, it is most important to compete at the level she knows she can.
"It's important we don't hold anything back because it's the last time to enjoy the sport that we love," Banfield said.
After achieving their season high score of 194.150, the Knights placed themselves in a stronger position in the regional qualifying score rankings. With the season quickly nearing its conclusion, the need for another score in the 193-194 range is higher than ever.
"If we can do another 194 in the next few meets we will be in a good position," Chollet-Norton said. "We also want to be able to surprise some people at EAGLS."