July 15, 2019 | 73° F

Rutgers seeks more focused mindset in practice

Photo by Nelson Morales, Staff Photographer |

Junior co-captain?Alexis Gunzelman said the Knights need to practice with more purpose after the team’s meet at Penn?State.

Rutgers head gymnastics coach Louis Levine said Thursday that last Saturday’s meet at Penn State would serve as a good barometer of where the team stands nationally. If nothing else, defeat at the hands of three big-name schools serves as proof for the Scarlet Knights (4-5, 0-2) that more work is in order for complete performances.

But the exact cause of the Knights’ fluctuations in events from week to week remains a question mark for Levine.

Rutgers posted a score of 48.225 on balance beam Jan. 19, but regressed to a 47.825 on Saturday. During the same time period, the Knights performed a 47.825 overall on uneven bars and shot back up to a 48.350 the following week.

“I don’t think there’s a magical answer to it,” Levine said of the inconsistencies. “We just have to keep pushing through — getting the numbers in during the week. There’s some shuffling going on with lineups and there’s constant competition. And that’s what it’s going to take is that competition — continuing to push each other forward.”

With the recent loss of senior co-captain Jenna Zito and the addition of junior Luisa Leal on lineup cards, a lineup change has been a necessity and may explain some of the inconsistencies.

But the Knights will continue shuffling their lineup to find one that clicks for a desired result. Despite their latest performance, they are not hanging their heads on the outcome at Penn State.

“I think it showed us that we can compete. Obviously there’s still work to be done. It was a good push. We went in there and we showed, ‘OK, we’re a step behind where they are,’” Levine said. “We had Pitt in our sights and didn’t close out the meet unfortunately. It would’ve been nice to take down the 22nd-ranked team in the country. We’ll have another shot at them this weekend.”

But with the Knights’ expectations set high, time may not be in their favor.

“I think that we’re lower in the standings than we had hoped by this point,” said junior co-captain Alexis Gunzelman. “We want to be top 36 by the end of the season, so we have a lot to work for.”

Gunzelman also said now is not the time to relax in the Livingston Recreation Center.

“I think we really need to start focusing in on [practice] so that we can build up in competitions,” she said. “We go into meets and we want to get these big scores, but we have to be confident to get those big scores and we have to be confident in our skills to hit those routines.”

That starts with treating practice routines the same as in meets.

Effort in the gymnasium is not the problem for Rutgers. That distinction belongs to its mentality.

“I really think that we do practice hard every day. I think that we have to go in with a different mind frame in practice,” Gunzelman said. “I think that we have to practice with a purpose more than we are right now. Right now we’re just kind of doing assignments to get them done. We need to do assignments to hit the assignments, and hit it on the first try and not the second or the third.”

For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GJohnsonTargum.

By Greg Johnson

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