April 25, 2019 | 52° F

Home gym gives lift to RU

Photo by Nelson Morales |

Junior Nicole Romano performes on the beam Feb. 11 against SUNY?Cortland and Brown. Romano and the Knights return to the Livingston Recreation?Center tomorrow to face three teams.

After a third-place finish behind EAGL opponents West Virginia and Maryland last Saturday, the Rutgers gymnastics team returns this weekend to the Livingston Recreation Center.

And if the Scarlet Knights can use their previous home meets as a benchmark, Saturday’s quad meet against Air Force, Bridgeport and Eastern Michigan will likely be anything but a disappointment.

The Knights’ greatest successes took place on their own equipment. Junior Nicole Romano said the attitude of the team changes significantly when it gets the chance to prepare for home meets.

“We have had a really good week at practice. The energy has definitely been up,” Romano said. “We always love competing at home.”

But for the team, the home gym advantage extends past using the same equipment they are used to in practice. At Maryland, the Knights competed in front of 1,278 fans at the Comcast Center. For Rutgers, the feelings that come with competing in front of a large crowd are nothing compared to the one that packs the Livingston Recreation Center.

Romano knows Rutgers’ home crowd is important.

“I think the crowd is the biggest part of it,” she said. “I mean it is our own equipment, but we have all of our fans and our family and our friends here. The crowd definitely helps a lot.”

The Knights hope for productivity similar to what they already saw at previous home meets. Rutgers took a quad meet at home almost a month ago to give itself not only the first wins of the season, but the first wins of first-year head coach Louis Levine’s career.

The Knights did not take a first-place finish until they again returned two weeks later to edge both SUNY Cortland and Brown with their second-highest score of the season.

Five different members of the Knights either tied or broke their personal-best scores that day in at least one event. Sophomores Alexis Gunzelman and Alyssa Straub also finished first and second in the all-around competition, respectively.

But the Knights have a lot of smoothing-out to do this weekend following the Maryland meet if they want to find success at home. Recorded falls on bars, along with inconsistency, led to Rutgers ending its day third on the podium.

The biggest problem that needs fixing, according to Romano, is not that the Knights do not have the right routines to win. Rather, they need to land the routines consistently as a team.

“We have a lot of great routines, but we do not all hit at the same time,” Romano said. “Once everyone can get together and hit at the same time at the same meet, then we will really score well, and that’s when we will start seeing more first-place finishes.”

To remedy the issue, Levine made his team practice in a meet environment, making sure the Knights land their routines as a unit.

“We have been doing more practice competitions, more like a full lineup during practice,” Romano said. “We will go and keep going until everyone hits. We have done a lot better with that.”

By Vinnie Mancuso

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