April 19, 2019 | 73° F

Rutgers makes history with high vault score

Photo by Ramon Dompor |

Junior Jenna Zito tied for third place Saturday in the vault with Alexis Gunzelman, her sophomore teammate. Three?Scarlet Knights took as many places in the top five.

Despite racking up a number of personal career-high performances Saturday, the Rutgers gymnastics team finished in a disappointing third place in a quad meet at Pittsburgh.

But the Scarlet Knights’ performance in one event in particular landed them in a completely different — and far more satisfying — top-three standing. Their score of 48.675 in the vault competition tied the record for third highest in Knights history.

But before head coach Louis Levine even saw the statistics and found out the record-setting performance his team put up, he knew he saw something special on the vault.

“Every single one of us rocked vault from start to finish. I could be wrong, but I think we set some sort of school record,” Levine said before learning the truth in his prediction. “That is the story of the meet right there.”

The vault was definitely the story as far as Rutgers was concerned, as it took three of the top-five spots in the competition. Sophomore Alyssa Straub paced the Knights in the event, recording a 9.825, good enough for second place.

Junior Jenna Zito and sophomore Alexis Gunzelman trailed Straub, tying for third place with a score of 9.800 apiece.

All three scores either tied or surpassed previous career highs for the three gymnasts. Combined with the scores of freshman Sara Skammer and juniors Danielle D’Elia and Nicole Romano, they put their names into the Rutgers record books.

And it could come at a better time. Landing their vault routines has been something the Knights struggled with the entire season, Straub said.

“It is a good thing that we finally came together. Our team made our vaults, which has been our whole problem this whole time,” Straub said. “When we all hit, you can see what we are capable of.”

What the Knights are capable of is, at the very least, equaling a record recorded last February in a meet with Maryland, Penn State and William & Mary.

But the Knights are not content. The team is no stranger to breaking records.

The same group that broke the record for most wins in a season last year set its sights on going farther than tied for third place this season.

It needs only .200 of a point until it reaches the previous record, set last March in the EAGL Championships.

“I’m excited, really excited,” Straub said. “But next time we would like to overcome the tie and break it.”

Perhaps more important than statistics and record books is what effect the vault performance has on the mindset of the team. Knowing they can match their record-setting performances from last season only adds to the Knights’ growing confidence.

They showed a good deal of the confidence that comes along with a record-tying performance in their routine at Pittsburgh, according to Gunzelman.

“It was almost like we knew before someone went into their routine that they were going to hit it,” Gunzelman said. “Stuff like that really helps the team out going forward as far as confidence goes.”

By Vinnie Mancuso

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