March 20, 2019 | 28° F

Rutgers works out Achilles’ heel in uneven bars

Photo by Lianne Ng |

Sophomore Alexis Gunzelman performs her bar routine in the Scarlet Knights’ most recent quad meet against Air Force, Bridgeport and Eastern?Michigan. She recorded a team-best score of 9.750, but the Knights struggled as a whole, earning a team score of 46.825 en route to a third-place finish.

As the Rutgers gymnastics team pushes toward its last three meets before the EAGL Championships, it looks to do something that eluded them for the majority of the season. For the Scarlet Knights, their largest problem has been putting together consistent performances in all four events.

Lately, the event that dragged down their score consistently is the uneven bars.

Called the team’s “nemesis” by head coach Louis Levine, the Knights’ 46.825 score on bars in their latest quad meet landed Rutgers in third place on the podium. Save for the bar routine, the Knights consistently scored more than 48.000 in every event.

And yet junior Jenna Zito, who does not compete on bars but has stood and watched her teammates struggle, still sees the improvement, even as the season winds down. For her, this development lifts the Knights’ confidence up more than one event can drag their scores down.

Their next chance to prove they improved comes tomorrow in a quad meet at Cornell.

“I see a lot of improvement. I see a lot of confidence going up there. I think that is really helpful,” Zito said. “We have been working really hard in the gym. It is midseason, some of us are hurting and some of us might be a little tired. I think we just need to keep up that hard work and it will come.”

In every event other than the uneven bars, this step up is not hard to see.

In the quad meet last week against Bridgeport, Eastern Michigan and Air Force, the Knights set a season-high score of 192.400 in their third-place finish. In the process, Zito and sophomore Alyssa Straub tied for second place with personal-best scores of 9.875 on the floor exercise, in which Rutgers placed first with a score of 48.925.

Rutgers also set a season-high score of 48.325 on the balance beam last weekend, thanks to a career high 9.875 from rookie Anastasia Halbig.

And if all these successes have taught the Knights anything in preparing for this weekend’s meet, it is that they are capable of landing every routine in their arsenal.

Zito sees her teammates land their routines every day in practice. For her, it is time they do the same in competition.

“We are past that point of just trying to make your routines. I think everyone can do it. We go out here every week and we do it,” Zito said. “We know our spots in the lineup, and we are comfortable with each other now. I think everyone just needs to do the great routines we have been practicing.”

Levine agrees his team is consistent during practice. In the week leading up to the meet at Cornell, he wanted that effort in practice to continue.

“All I expect is for these girls to come in and give an effort every day,” Levine said. “A lot of this sport is putting in numbers. The other part of that is watching your numbers. It is a balancing act.”

And at this point in the season, practice may be hard for a Knights squad that has been plagued with injuries throughout its last couple of meets.

Even so, it may be the key to bringing Rutgers from third to first place this weekend on the podium.

“When we are putting in numbers, I need that 110 percent,” Levine said. “It is a long season, everyone has little nagging things that hurt here and there. It is just a matter of keeping your body healthy and working as hard as you can.”

By Vinnie Mancuso

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