July 23, 2019 | 71° F

Three Knights grip for shot at Nationals

Photo by Jeffrey Lazaro |

Freshman Luisa Leal-Restrepo is one of three Knights ' all underclassmen ' to earn an invitation to NCAA'regionals and has experience in big meets.

The Rutgers gymnastics team had its sights set on going to NCAA regionals all season, and even though the Scarlet Knights came up short, they put together a memorable season and broke multiple records along the way.

And although the Scarlet Knights will not go to nationals as a team, three athletes earned the right to compete as individuals.

Sophomores Jenna Zito and Danielle D'Elia, and freshman Luisa Leal-Restrepo, all qualified for NCAA regionals after successful campaigns. While disappointed that the Knights were unable to qualify for regionals as a team, head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton is glad that three of her gymnasts will continue competing.

"It was a slightly disappointing end to the season to not be able to qualify for regionals, but we were able to finish the season strong," Chollet-Norton said after the East Atlantic Gymnastics League Championship. "I'm very proud of the ones that earned a spot."

While Chollet-Norton will not coach again next year, she is still interested in the future of the program. Considering that the three athletes that earned spots in NCAA regionals are underclassmen, Chollet-Norton believes that the future is bright for Rutgers gymnastics.

"All three of those girls have very bright futures. It just shows how strong a team Rutgers will have for years to come," Chollet-Norton said.

Leal-Restrepo arrived on the Banks this season with higher expectations than most Rutgers gymnasts before her. As a member of the Columbian National Team and with her sights set on the Olympics, Leal-Restrepo has an impressive pedigree.

And for the Knights this season, she lived up to the hype, quickly becoming one of the top performers on the team.

Along with Zito, Leal-Restrepo served as an all-arounder this season. The pair maintained its health in spite of the rigors of competing in four events. Leal-Restrepo ended the season with an all-around average of 38.680, while Zito was not far behind her with a score of 38.228.

"They have worked hard all year in the gym and done all the right things," Chollet-Norton said.

Unlike Leal-Restrepo, D'Elia came to Rutgers with hype. After spending her first year at Central Michigan, she decided to transfer to Rutgers. D'Elia proved herself time and again this year as a top performer.

"Danielle came here and has been wonderful from Day 1," Chollet-Norton said. "She has a great personality and has a really good routine on floor."

The NCAA Division I Gymnastics Northeast Regional Championships start Saturday, April 2 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Josh Glatt

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