Rutgers records historic finishes at postseason meet
When his first season as the new head coach of the Rutgers gymnastics team began, Louis Levine made one clear goal for the Scarlet Knights: improvement from meet to meet.
As the Knights’ season came to a conclusion Saturday at the EAGL Championships, the culmination of their season-long improvement showed through. In its final performance of the year, Rutgers recorded its highest score of the season, 193.850, to finish in eighth place.
“Obviously we came together, and we finally did what we wanted to all year,” said junior Danielle D’Elia. “We had some really great moments and some really big scores that we were capable of hitting all year. Everyone just had a great meet from start to finish.”
The Knights’ eighth-place finish and score were good enough to land them atop the Rutgers record books. Their final score was the highest in program history at the EAGL Championships, eclipsing the previous record of 193.625 set last year.
Even in his first year as head coach of the Knights, Levine was confident his squad would make history eventually.
“We knew coming into the season that we had a great team that was capable of doing great things,” Levine said. “We were able to weather the storm of a few injuries and really fight through and grow as a team as the season went along.”
Sophomore Alexis Gunzelman led the Knights throughout, living up to her billing as First-Team All-EAGL All-Around. The Tabernacle, N.J., native found her own place in Rutgers history with a career-high all-around score of 39.125, good enough to tie for fifth place overall.
Gunzelman’s finish was the best in program history.
“I’m very happy with myself. I started off a little shaky, but I was able to pull through,” she said. “It was all about getting the scores for my team. When I perform for my team and not for myself, I tend to do a lot better.”
Gunzelman’s career-high 9.900 on the floor exercise placed her in second out of 49 competitors.
“I went after two of the best floor workers we have and just went for my landings,” she said. “I performed for judges and crowd, and the score was just there. There is not really a feeling to describe it — it was just pure excitement.”
But Levine strives for his team to perform as a single unit. On the floor event, Gunzelman was not the only member of the Knights to impress.
All six members of the floor lineup scored at least a 9.750, with D’Elia and junior Jenna Zito finishing behind Gunzelman with scores of 9.850 and 9.825, respectively.
Although it is an event they lost throughout the season because of injury, the floor exercise emerged as the Knights’ favorite, D’Elia said.
“Floor is definitely our strongest event, and we didn’t even have all our strongest performers in. It goes to show that we do have backups, and we do have people fighting to get into the lineup,” D’Elia said. “We all love floor. We love to perform. When your teammates are doing your routine with you on the sidelines, you feel like you have so many people behind you.”
The Knights peaked at the perfect time, D’Elia said, and more importantly, they did it as a team.
“You strive to be perfect all the time,” D’Elia said. “Sometimes it doesn’t happen but I think EAGLs was a great example of us coming together and getting close to being perfect.”