Regional tournament eludes RU
Slowly but surely, Louis Levine consoled his gymnasts.
As members of the Rutgers gymnastics team trudged off the floor of the Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Saturday, the head coach urged his team to keep perspective.
The Scarlet Knights finished seventh among eight teams at the East Atlantic Gymnastics League Championships with a score of 193.925 — a mark Rutgers knew would not land it a spot in the top 36 for the NCAA Regionals.
The Knights were forced to count a fall on the beam, and they earned their lowest score in the event in that month. After flourishing in the floor exercise all season, Rutgers recorded its second lowest total in the event since its opener.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” Levine said. “We wanted to go out there and do better. It was a little bit of a rough meet.”
Levine asserts that judging was extremely tight, but he refuses to use it as an excuse.
Strict scoring is expected at a championship event, and all gymnasts dealt with the same external factors.
North Carolina State won the competition with only a 195.175 — a mark Rutgers eclipsed by eight tenths less than a month ago.
“For some of the best teams in the country … a 195.175 to win is a really low score to win the championships,” Levine said. “That makes it hard on everybody because you’re doing these great routines, and you’re shooting only 9.7 or 9.6. That’s rough and can take a little bit of the air out of the balloon.”
There was a silver lining.
A team that made program history all season did it again Saturday by earning its highest score ever at the conference championships — breaking last season’s 193.850 previous record mark.
Levine said he is most proud that Rutgers scored the highest uneven bars total in the meet — besting every other conference foe in an area where Rutgers has historically been weak.
Junior co-captain Alexis Gunzelman took command with a 9.825 mark, while junior Luisa Leal and freshman Jenna Williams chipped in with a 9.800 apiece.
For Levine, it was a summation of the step forward that Rutgers took on bars all season.
“For an event that was our worst event for the last several years — to go out and win yesterday is something that we’re all really happy [about] and proud of,” Levine said.
Five Knights were awarded All-EAGL status Friday — including Leal as EAGL Team MVP and both Gunzelman and Williams to First Team All-Uneven Bars.
Despite not qualifying as a team for NCAAs, Rutgers will likely send four individuals to the competition on April 6th, Levine said. An official announcement will be made sometime today.
Gunzelman was the only Knight to qualify last season — another sign of the significant progress Rutgers has made.
“We had a shot to win this year. I can honestly say that we’ve never even had that before,” Levine said. “We had a shot to win EAGL and to go to regionals — and just make sure that we’re now on a playing field with these teams that in the past we haven’t been.”
For the Knights, progress is the most rational perspective they can have right now — understanding not every aspiration can be fulfilled in one season.
“We’ll talk more about it when we get back [to the gym],” Levine said. “[Saturday] was kind of a day to let it soak in … but they know — they understand that we did things that quite possibly people didn’t think we could do here this year.”
For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @Greg_P_Johnson.