RU brings hot streak to home meet
The No. 18 Rutgers gymnastics team welcomes Brown University tonight looking for its best start since the team opened 7-0 in 1978.
The Scarlet Knights will be without freshman April Baker due to an undisclosed injury. Head coach Louis Levine was tight-lipped when discussing it.
“She’s going to be out for a little while, not really sure how long,” Levine said.
Baker earned EAGL Rookie of the Week honors following her debut Jan. 11 at New Hampshire. She was a top-two finisher in both of her events, the vault and floor exercise, with a 9.825 in each.
Baker improved her vault score to 9.850 in the following quad meet at Kent State and performed in every event except the uneven bars last Sunday against Ohio State.
The Knights have steadily improved their team score in each meet, most recently earning a 195.275 at Ohio State. Their team average of 195.200 is first in the EAGL, while ranked first on uneven bars and second in the other three categories.
Freshman Claire Jones is not surprised by the fast start.
“We expected to come out strong, so we expected [the undefeated record] and just need to get better,” she said.
Rutgers is currently ranked in the top 25 nationally in all four events — No. 16 on the balance beam, No. 21 on the uneven bars and floor exercise and No. 23 on the vault.
The Knights return to the Livingston Gym for their first meet of the year with students on campus. They expect over 1,000 spectators.
“The more people you have in there, the more energy, the more exciting the meet is, and that helps,” Levine said. “It tends to loosen up the judges a bit more and score a little bit higher when the crowd is into it and the team is into it.”
Brown, the defending Ivy League champion, traveled to Rutgers the past three years but could not escape with a win in any of the meets. Its highest score against the Knights, a 191.850, came last year, while the home team scored a 195 even.
Brown came in third place with a 192.550 in a quad meet against New Hampshire, Minnesota and Yale in its only outing this season.
Senior Jenna Zito returned at Kent State after missing nearly all of last season with an injury in the second meet. She earned a 9.750 on the beam followed by two 9.775 scores on the beam and vault at Ohio State.
The three captains that form the core of the team, Zito, junior Luisa Leal and senior Alexis Gunzelman are healthy for the first time since 2011.
Leal earned the team’s “Most Valuable Gymnast” award last season, while Gunzelman took the honors in 2011 and 2012. Zito won it in 2010.
“I’m not going to lie, there’s always some pain here and there, but we’re definitely healthy,” Leal said.