Head coach finishes career with Knights
The Rutgers gymnastics team had a record-breaking season in 2011 after slowly building toward national prominence for the last several years.
While the Scarlet Knights ultimately did not qualify for NCAA Regionals as a team, they put the program in a position to continue growing toward previously unreachable heights.
Head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton announced her retirement before the season and was ecstatic with how her final season went. Like any coach, she was glad to go out on top.
"I'm excited with how the year has gone and I couldn't have asked for a better final season," Chollet-Norton said. "It would have been nice to make it as a team to regionals, but it's a little bit harder at the level we have gotten to."
Chollet-Norton credits her team with making her final year a special one. She acknowledged that after informing her team of her retirement, they worked tirelessly to make sure they performed for their outgoing coach.
"The girls rose to the occasion and made it the best year of my life," Chollet-Norton said.
Among the accolades the Knights accomplished this year include a school record for wins in a season and two meet scores within the top five in school history. Additionally, freshman Luisa Leal-Restrepo earned East Atlantic Gymnastics League Freshman of the Year honors, an accolade her coach believes is a sign of things to come for the program.
"We haven't had any big honors like Luisa ever in my time here. We have had certain great honors in the past but not based solely on gymnastics," Chollet-Norton said. "It goes to show that we are taking aim at a higher level."
The NCAA named Chollet-Norton it's Northeast Regional Coach of the Year, an award that is especially significant for Chollet-Norton because of its selection process.
"It means a lot because it comes from everyone I have worked with over my career," she said. "It's a great honor."
Despite her planned retirement, Chollet-Norton looked at her team's accomplishments this year as a sign of future growth. With the freshman and sophomore classes already performing at a high level aided by a strong incoming class, she believes the sky is the limit.
"We had a young team, but I knew we were good. The girls came through when they needed to," Chollet-Norton said. "The experience from this year will carry the girls through for years to come."
When looking back on her final season, it is impossible for Chollet-Norton to choose any one moment as her favorite. She sees the season as a dream scenario that allowed her to leave on a high note.
"The West Virginia coach retired after 37 years after the worst meet of her life at regionals. You want to go out and remember your best and not your worst," Chollet-Norton said. "Every meet had something special. The senior day meet and the alumni day meet were great experiences, but I can't pinpoint any one moment. These kids just kept fighting all year and had a great season."