April 22, 2019 | 52° F

RU shines on beam in defeat

The Rutgers gymnastics team opened its season knowing two things about itself. First, it has a lot to live up to, with last year’s team notching the most single-season wins in program history.

Second, it is in a time of transition with long-time head coach Crystal Chollet-Norton stepping down after last season. Former assistant coach Dan Levine replaced her.

The Scarlet Knights find themselves off to a rocky start, dropping their first two meets of the year.

The Knights took to the road for the first time last weekend to take on East Atlantic Gymnastics League opponent West Virginia, falling to the Mountaineers, 193.425-191.650.

But Levine saw only improvement in the defeat, which he asks from his team all along.

“What we are really looking for is to keep showing improvement, keep adding to that overall performance,” Levine said. “We will be constantly looking to keep making positive steps forward with each meet.”

The Knights’ performance on the balance beam was a bright spot. Despite a slow start to the meet, the team ended strong, landing all six of its beam performances.

“I think we did pretty good this week. We had a slow start but a great ending on beam,” said sophomore Luisa Leal. “We really did awesome on beam, going six-for-six — that’s a record for us. We showed a lot of improvement this week, so we are good. We are on the right track.”

Leal led the team throughout the meet, taking the meet all-around title for the second week in a row with a score of 38.850. Her uneven bar score of 9.825 tied for best in the standout’s young career.

While Leal found herself in first place on the podium for the uneven bar event, junior Danielle D’Elia and sophomore Alexis Gunzelman closely followed her. The pair notched scores of 9.650 and 9.625, respectively.

“It’s the second week in a row that our top three came out [Nos.] 1, 2 and 3 with the three highest scores [on bars],” Levine said. “We are really working on bringing up those other three scores and looking for that to become one of our strengths as the year goes on.”

The Knights look to the West Virginia meet as a marked improvement from their first matchup of the year, which New Hampshire won, 191.050-189.575, at the Livingston Gym.

“We really went out there and put on a better and stronger showing than we did [against New Hampshire],” Levine said.”

Levine, who saw his team struggle with falls on the beam against New Hampshire, finds hope after it landed a perfect six-for-six only a few days later in Morgantown, W. Va.

“We have put a lot of time and effort into doing a lot of lock meets in the gym, just working on confidence and showing off the stuff we have,” he said. “We have a great game here, and we really want to be able to go out there and show it week in and week out.”

By Vinnie Mancuso

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