Quad-meet sweep gives head coach first career victories
The Rutgers gymnastics team returned home to the Livingston Recreation Center last Saturday in a quad meet searching for its first wins of the season.
In a meet filled with career-highs and career-firsts, the Scarlet Knights edged out Temple, Southern Connecticut and Ursinus to take the top spot and even their record to 3-3.
And on top of all the firsts the Knights acquired during the meet stands head coach Louis Levine, who notched his first wins as head coach.
“You always want to win every time you go out there,” Levine said. “Even though our sport is one based on scores, you want wins. You should not be in athletics if you don’t want to win.”
The meet also saw a return to form in the floor exercise, an event the Knights often dominated in last season but have struggled in this year. Rutgers notched its best score of the day on floor with 48.775.
“We are back to our personality on floor. We really showed it off,” Levine said. “The place got loud and the crowd was really into it. We definitely stepped it up a notch.”
Junior Jenna Zito stood out among the pack with a meet and career-high score of 9.850.
“It is a huge confidence booster. I think confidence is one of the main things that help us get those big scores,” Zito said. “The fact that we beat three teams today at home in front of our fans, I think that’s really going to help us moving forward and when we face these bigger teams.”
Sophomore Alexis Gunzelman also tallied career-best scores en route to the team’s first win. Gunzelman, who was the only Rutgers gymnast to compete in the all-around for all four meets, surpassed her previous career-high in floor exercise with a score of 38.925.
Freshman Sara Skammer shined in her best collegiate performance to date, taking second place in both the vault and uneven bars. The freshman’s scores of 9.700 in both events were career-highs.
While gymnasts and coaches alike were notching firsts and highs throughout the meet, there was one first the Knights had hoped not to see. In the team’s two previous meets it landed six-of-six of its beam performances.
The Knights struggled in the event over the weekend, when Temple took all three top spots in the beam.
“We struggled a little bit on beam really for the first time,” Levine said. “We ended up having to take a fall which isn’t like us.”
But the Knights’ willingness to look past those mistakes notched them their first wins of the season, according to Zito. The junior cited the support of the home crowd as a main contributor to the win.
“It was really great for us to do it at home. We came in with a lot of confidence and I think that’s how we got the first win,” she said. “We had a lot of things in our past meets that went wrong and we knew exactly what we needed to do to correct them at home.”
Not only did the career-highs tallied in Saturday’s meet raise the team’s scores, it also elevated something even more important: the team’s confidence.
That means the sky is the limit from here on out, according to Zito.
“Besides getting more numbers in the gym, we just need to focus on the little things,” she said. “Once we do that there is nothing that is going to stop us from beating even better teams.”