Trio of Knights extend season with NCAA berth
While the schedule for the Rutgers gymnastics team concluded with a school-record finish at the East Atlantic Gymnastics League Championships, three gymnasts continued their seasons.
Freshman Luisa Leal-Restrepo, along with sophomores Jenna Zito and Danielle D'Elia qualified for NCAA Regionals after impressive seasons.
While disappointed that the Scarlet Knights did not qualify for regionals as a team, head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton is excited to see three of her gymnasts compete on a larger stage.
"We are all really looking forward to seeing Luisa, Danielle and Jenna compete at regionals," Chollet-Norton said. "They are going to do a great job representing the team and the University."
Leal-Restrepo and Zito both qualified for the all-around despite suffering small injuries this year that prevented either of them from regularly competing in four events.
"It is outstanding that they have managed to stay healthy all year," Chollet-Norton said. "They just work hard and do the right things in the gym."
Leal-Restrepo's all-around average of 38.680 not only earned her a spot in regionals, but also recently led to her being awarded the East Atlantic Gymnastics League Rookie of the Year.
Her 39.025 regional qualifying score ranked sixth in the Northeast region. Leal-Restrepo averages a score of 9.832 in floor exercise, a 9.798 on vault, a 9.586 on bars and a 9.404 on balance beam this season.
Zito, a returning leader of the team, earned her first berth in NCAA Regionals with an average score of 38.228 while competing in all-around in nine meets this season. The sophomore averaged a score of 9.731 in floor exercise, a 9.628 on vault, a 9.469 on bars and a 9.397 on balance beam.
D'Elia, a transfer from Central Michigan, qualified for floor exercises — an event she excelled in since she arrived on the Banks. Chollet-Norton frequently praised D'Elia for being a consistent performer capable of dealing with pressure.
"Danielle is an outstanding athlete and performer. She sells herself and she has a great floor routine," Chollet-Norton said. "She comes from a very good club and that really helps make an outstanding gymnast. We lucked out getting her … I am going to miss her."
D'Elia's regional qualifying score of 9.840 was top 10 in the Northeast region. In her first season with the Knights, D'Elia competed in floor exercises in every meet. She averaged 9.796 in floor exercise with a career-high mark of 9.875 that she accomplished in two separate meets.
While the majority of the team does not have competition left this season, the team can help the trio prepare. Chollet-Norton allowed her team to relax on Monday, but will begin preparing Leal-Restrepo, Zito, and D'Elia for regionals.
"We gave the girls an easy day [on Monday] and they just played around and worked out on their own," Chollet-Norton said. "We'll start working harder with them for the rest of the week."