March 19, 2019 | 29° F

Knights record season-high score in third-place finish

Photo by Wendy Chiapaikeo |

Junior Jenna Zito competes on the beam Saturday in the Knights’ quad meet, which resulted in a third-place mark for the team. Zito recorded a personal-best score of 9.875 with her performance in the floor exercise.

In the stat books, the Rutgers gymnastic team’s quad meet Saturday in the Livingston Recreation Center looks like a success.

The Scarlet Knights tallied their highest team score of the season with 192.400. They also took first place on the podium in both the balance beam and floor exercise with scores of 48.325 and 48.925, respectively. The score on the beam marked a season high for the team.

And yet despite the successes, Rutgers still ended its night in third place behind Bridgeport and Eastern Michigan. The highs of the meet could not overcome the lows on a sloppy parallel bars routine, said head coach Louis Levine.

“We had three really good events, but bars has been our nemesis,” Levine said. “We are going to have to make some changes to try and put some hit routines up there. We keep going into these meets that we can win and unfortunately, we cannot put bars together when we need to.”

As the season winds down, the bar routine is the missing piece of a puzzle that could earn Rutgers more first-place finishes. Although junior Jenna Zito sees improvement, she said the team still waits for it to fall into place.

“I think we are still waiting on everything to still come together,” she said. “We really do have a lot of good routines and just a few falls we need to clean up.”

Zito led the squad in its most successful event of the day — the floor exercise. She tied for second in the event with a personal-best score of 9.875.

“I was really happy with my floor routine. I’m working towards that 9.900 — that is my goal,” Zito said. “I finished that routine, and I knew it was the best one I have ever done. That is a great feeling knowing that.”

The floor routine has consistently been the Knights’ best event over the course of their last few meets. For Levine, it is a testament to not only the skills, but the attitude of his team.

“We have a really good group of girls who really like to perform. Floor is a chance for their personality to come out,” Levine said. “Other teams are constantly coming up to us and complimenting us on our floor routines. It is something we concentrate on here, and it has been our strength for the past couple years.”

Sophomore Alexis Gunzelman tied Zito on Saturday in the floor exercise. Gunzelman, who finished second in the all-around with a score of 39.000, has settled into an established role with the Knights during the course of the season.

Levine first noticed Gunzelman as an assistant coach, when the all-arounder was a freshman.

“Toward the end of last year, when she really got into all-around, she was having some success,” Levine said. “She has always been an extremely talented gymnast, and when she got here, she learned how to compete.”

Even in their third-place finish, Gunzelman led the Knights, much like she has done for the majority of the season.

“She has been our leader out there on the floor — just consistent day in and day out,” Levine said. “What you are seeing in meets is what we are seeing every day in practice. That is the easiest way to make it work.”

By Vinnie Mancuso

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