July 16, 2019 | 67° F

RU strives to finish routines, perform under pressure

During the course of the season, the Rutgers gymnastics team has strived for improved confidence and mental makeup in order to rise to an elite level in competition.

While the Scarlet Knights have taken significant steps in this department since the Jan. 6 season opener, they believe some mental toughness is still lacking, especially in clutch situations.

Rutgers was faced with only a half-point deficit after three events in Friday’s dual meet at Kent State, but the Knights could not capitalize.

Head coach Louis Levine said at the time the team had a “flat tire” on balance beam, but insists that endurance and fatigue are not issues for the team.

“It wasn’t about us being tired,” Levine said. “It was just one mistake and then another mistake, and it just kind of snowballed from there.”

The problem is that the Knights often put themselves under too much unnecessary pressure, said junior co-captain Alexis Gunzelman.

“When we got it within range where we were like, ‘Oh my god, we’re really close to this team,’ and ‘Wow, we could get a really good score,’ we put a lot of pressure on ourselves,” Gunzelman said, “which we didn’t have to do. All we had to do was go into beam and do what we did [Feb. 2], and do what we do in practice every week.”

Furthermore, the Knights failed to stay in the present moment.

Gunzelman said the team needs to focus solely on hitting routines rather than looking ahead to what the result might be.

“We got excited,” Gunzelman said. “We got ahead of ourselves, and we looked at the outcome before we finished our meet — and it just kind of threw us off beam.”

She believes beam specifically is not an area of concern for the team and claims it was simply a matter of beam being the meet’s last event.

From a technical standpoint, the Knights also aim this week to finish routines with more style and eliminate as many small point deductions as possible.

“Getting up and finishing routines,” Gunzelman said of physical keys to improvement, “not just doing the routine to hit it — I mean obviously we want to hit — but we want to hit with that flare that really shows off that we can do these routines, and we can get the big scores. So just big finishes and showing the other team what we’re capable of doing.”

Levine stresses another pitfall to which the Knights may have fallen victim: performing not to miss.

“You have to do beam to hit beam, not to not fall on beam because when you do it to not fall, you usually end up falling,” Levine said. “You have to take that step forward to being up there to show off, and not just to get through.”

Rutgers’ home quad meet Feb. 2 was arguably its only complete performance of the season and the one time the Knights succeeded in the final event to seal victory. But in that circumstance, Rutgers had the luxury of ending with its forte — the floor exercise — as well as competing behind arguably its most packed crowd of the season.

Performing on the road has been a different dynamic, as the Knights have yet to seize a win outside the Livingston Recreation Center.

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

By Greg Johnson

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