Team score becomes main goal
The Rutgers gymnastics team entered its regular season with something to prove. With first-year head coach Louis Levine, the Scarlet Knights had to live up to last year’s squad, which set the program record for most wins in a season.
And the Knights responded, although not entirely as a team.
Not a meet went by where at least one member of the team set or tied for a personal-best score in at least one event.
Now, as Rutgers takes part in the EAGL Championships this weekend at Fitzgerald Field House in Pittsburgh, it once again has to surpass a high standard it set last year.
Last year’s Rutgers squad recorded the highest ever finish and score in school history at the EAGLs with 193.625 points, placing fifth.
To match the record-setting finish, the time for individual performances is over, according to Levine. To consider the EAGLs a success, the Knights must perform as a complete team.
“We are at that one for all and all for one point in the season,” Levine said. “Everyone is trying to come together as a team and do it for each other.”
Every member of the Knights has been preparing differently this week for the team effort she wants to produce. Junior Danielle D’Elia views the championship for what it is: her last chance to compete and contribute to the team this year.
She hopes it propels her toward success at the EAGLs.
“Obviously placing is something we really want to do, but for us we are just really concentrating on going out there and just giving it all we have,” D’Elia said.”It is our last meet of the year, so you might as well put everything you have out there. It can only end well.”
The EAGLs present a unique opportunity in D’Elia’s eyes. Win, lose or draw, the Knights’ season is over, which relieves much of the pressure that comes with a championship meet.
“You just go out there and give it everything you got because you really have nothing to lose,” D’Elia said. “It is either you place or you do not place.”
The largest obstacle standing in the history-making finish the Knights look for is the event they face first in their rotation: the uneven bars.
Openly acknowledged by Levine as their biggest struggle, the bars have consistently been Rutgers’ lowest scoring event throughout the regular season.
The Knights’ final regular season effort, a second-place finish in a tri-meet at William & Mary, saw the woes on bars continue. Rutgers had only three days of practice on its home equipment, and then one at Pittsburgh to attempt to improve its Achilles’ heel.
D’Elia, who scored highest on bars at William & Mary, hopes the mistakes of the past stay there as the Knights depart for the Steel City.
“That is where everything really counts,” D’Elia said. “I would rather get any mess-ups out of the way now and have the best meet I can at EAGL, because that is what is going to help my team the most.”