July 20, 2019 | 83° F

Rutgers falls short during historic road performance

Forget the fact the Rutgers gymnastics team placed last in its road tri-meet Sunday with No. 18 Maryland and West Virginia.

For head coach Louis Levine, the Scarlet Knights eclipsing the 195 score mark for the second time this season served as vindication of what he has asserted all along.

Before the season, he insisted the Knights’ depth was something unseen in recent program history, and the results justify his claim.

Rutgers’ team score of 195.050 in College Park, Md., was its highest all-time on the road and third highest in any building — surpassing the 195.000 season-high score it reached at its Feb. 2 home Alumni Meet.

“[I’m] very happy with how we did [Sunday] night,” Levine said. “It was a great meet from start to finish in four events.”

The historic implications are significant.

Entering this season, the Knights had not scored a 195 in more than decade. Now they have achieved it twice in less than three weeks.

Levine is not surprised, but understands execution of potential takes dedication.

“We came into the year and we knew we had a good team, and we just had to go out there and prove it,” Levine said. “We talked about it earlier in the year. We just had to keep doing the same thing if we wanted to reach some of what our goals are.”

To inch closer to those goals, he pushed some of his top gymnasts to larger workloads.

Juniors Luisa Leal and junior co-captain Alexis Gunzelman made their debuts in the all-around competition. Both gymnasts performed floor routines for the first time this season.

Leal led Rutgers in the event with a score of 9.900, matching the season high for a Knight. She also recorded the highest individual score for the team on vault and uneven bars.

Junior co-captain Alyssa Straub was previously the only Knight to compete in the all-around at a meet this season.

Levine said he made the decision because his team has gotten healthier as the season continues.

“They’re healthy. They felt healthy enough to do all the events,” Levine said. “That’s really what it was about. They were finally both able this week to do floor routines.”

Rutgers surpassed its season average in every event, beginning on the uneven bars with a score of 48.550.

Leal set the tone with a 9.775, and Gunzelman and freshman Jenna Williams complemented her with scores of 9.750 apiece.

On the balance beam, freshman specialist Claudia Salinas matched a career-high score of 9.850 to lead Rutgers to a 48.625 team score in the event. Senior Emma-Rose Trentacosti chipped in with a strong performance, earning a score of 9.800.

The Knights eclipsed the 49 score mark on the floor exercise for the second time this season with a score 49.025. Freshman Katie Stebick assisted Leal with a 9.850 score performance.

Rutgers earned just short of the record team score it set on vault Feb. 2, totaling a 48.850.

Despite finishing behind Maryland (196.175) and West Virginia (195.775) overall, the Knights (7-8, 1-3) are pleased with their progress.

It is understood that the next step to an elite national level cannot be taken instantly.

For its standards, Rutgers has plunged into uncharted territory.

“You’re happy with the score,” Levine said. “Obviously you never want to lose. It’s a competition. But what’s difference about our sport versus a lot of sports is, what I do has actually nothing to do with the team we’re facing. I have no control over what they’re doing. I only have control over what we’re doing.”

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

By Greg Johnson

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