July 15, 2019 | 73° F

Difficult judging challenges Rutgers

Photo by Lianne Ng |

Freshman Jenna Williams scored less than 9.000 Saturday on the beam, an event in which Rutgers struggled in that meet.

Despite witnessing his team fall short of first place on the road for the third consecutive week, Rutgers head gymnastics coach Louis Levine had almost nothing negative to say about the Scarlet Knights.

Even if it does not always show up on the scoreboard, he can see his gymnasts improving.

Even when Rutgers finished third Saturday at No. 13 Denver –— in its first quad competition since Feb. 2 — Levine took it as another stepping stone in a process priming the Knights for a historic postseason.

“There were some little things here and there, but overall I thought it actually was a pretty darn good meet with some very tight judging,” Levine said. “Obviously when things are judged, it can be one way or the another — you can get scores that are way too high, you can get scores that are way too low and some of our scores I thought were way too low.”

The Knights (8-10, 1-3 EAGL) scored a 193.925 overall, slightly better than their season average, but they still had their hands full.

Denver won the meet with a score of 195.800 and then-No. 16 Boise State — now unranked —came in second with a 194.525 total. Utah State, who finished in last with a 192.150, was the only team Rutgers was able to outperform.

Difficult judging is not an excuse for the Knights. It only further fuels them to get to the next level.

“You run into that stuff. Good teams can overcome that, and that’s what we’re trying to get to,” Levine said. “We’re still in the phases of trying to be able to overcome that.”

Rutgers’ top performances of the night came on vault, where the Knights tallied a 48.800 through a consistent unit.

Junior Luisa Leal earned a 9.800 — with junior Alexis Gunzelman and freshmen Jenna Williams, Danielle Verdon and Nicolette Wilson all scoring a 9.750.

After averaging only a 48.275 on vault in the first month of the season, Rutgers has averaged a 48.719 in four February meets since.

Levine attributes the improved results to his continuous philosophy of competition in practice before competition in meets.

“I think it’s a combination of competition in here, and at the beginning of the year we were a little banged up,” Levine said. “It was a little bit of, ‘OK, who’s ready this week to go?’ And now it’s, ‘Who’s going to win the competition to compete this week?’”

On the uneven bars, Williams continued her consistency with a score of 9.775 to lead the Knights to a 48.375 total in the event. The Bordentown, N.J., native boasts team-high 9.806 season average on bars.

But for the second time in three meets, she had a hiccup on the balance beam, scoring less than a 9.000. As a team, Rutgers tallied only a 48.050 in the event that continues to hold back its overall score.

With sweat dripping down her face at the Livingston Recreation Center yesterday, Williams showed determination to make amends and lead the team through its struggles on beam.

“I just need more confidence in my beam. That’s really it,” she said.

Another asset for Rutgers proved to once again be the floor exercise, where four Knights earned at least a 9.700 to amass a team score of 48.700.

Senior Danielle D’Elia and Leal both hit a 9.800 to tie for fourth out of 24 competitors in the event.

Rutgers’ morale remains strong through what has been a grueling yet rewarding three-week road trip.

“Overall as a team, I think that we held together pretty well, and we didn’t let the judging get to us and bring us down,” Williams said. “We stayed positive throughout the whole meet.”

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

By Greg Johnson

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