April 23, 2019 | 61° F

Junior translates enjoyment on floor into success

Photo by Nelson Morales |

Junior Jenna Zito competes in the floor exercise Feb. 11 at the Livingston Recreation?Center in a tri-meet.

There are not many athletes who can say they compete in their respective sport with a constant smile on their face. Junior Jenna Zito of the Rutgers gymnastics team is one of the few exceptions.

While events like the uneven bars and vault might be judged more on technicalities, more weight goes to presentation when it comes to the floor exercise. Zito, who led the Scarlet Knights at Maryland last Saturday on the floor with a score of 9.800, is well aware of the fact.

In fact, it is the exact reason she enjoys the floor exercise more than any other event.

“Floor is my favorite event. I love to show off,” Zito said. “I love the feeling that everyone is watching me and that I get the entire floor to myself for a minute and a half.”

In the middle of the Comcast Center in Maryland, Zito did not disappoint in her choice event. Her score of 9.800, combined with a 9.775 from classmate Nicole Romano and a pair of 9.700 scores from freshman Sara Skammer and sophomore Alyssa Straub, allowed the Knights to finish best in the floor exercise with a tally of 48.450.

But what separates the floor from every other event for Zito is not the scores she continues to rack up or the successes she finds with her routines — it is her mindset entering it.

“I was just really excited because it was a huge crowd and it was in that big arena down in Maryland,” Zito said. “I just tried to have fun with it, and when I have the most fun is when I do the best.”

But hidden beneath Zito’s exterior on the mat during the floor exercise lies months of preparation preparing her routine. The three-year veteran continues to add layers to her floor performance.

Zito said her work in progress is finally coming together. Her performance in Maryland proves it.

“I have been working on this routine all year,” Zito said. “My last pass is actually a new pass that I put in this year, so it has given me something a little extra I need to work on. I think at the end it looks really good, so I’m really happy with the way it is coming together.”

Moving forward, Zito hopes her performance on the floor can contribute to better than the third-place finish the Knights earned at Maryland. Her scores on floor, peaking so far at 9.850 in a quad meet at Pittsburgh on Feb. 4, have consistently been among the Knights’ best.

For her, the outcomes will be easy to keep going as long as she continues to attract the spotlight in front of progressively larger crowds. After all, the larger the crowd, the more people she has the chance to show off for.

And when she gets to do so, the fun begins for Zito.

“I just want to make sure that if they are watching they are going to be watching something good,” Zito said. “I just go out and try to do the best I can, and yes, I like to have fun with it every time I’m out there.”

By Vinnie Mancuso

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