April 18, 2019 | 60° F

Freshman brings world championship experience to Rutgers

Fresh off its best season in program history, the Rutgers gymnastics team welcomes one of its best recruiting classes ever. 

Its most decorated gymnast, Ayana Lee, leads the class, which consists of six highly touted gymnasts. 

The 5-foot-1 Lee boasts a bigger resume than most freshman gymnasts across the country. 

A four-year varsity letter winner and standout at nearby Bridgewater-Raritan (New Jersey) High School, she won the Skyland Conference all-around title (2012) and was named the Star-Ledger Central Jersey Group II Gymnast of the year (2012), a two-time NJSIAA floor champion (2012 & 2013) and a second-team All-State performer. 

And if that was not enough to attract college coaches, as a member of Indigo gymnastics club in New Providence, New Jersey, Lee was a Level 10 first alternate National Qualifier in 2013.

Upon reaching the prestigious accolade, she placed third on floor and fourth on vault at regionals. 

On National Signing Day, despite many other college offers she had received, Lee had just one college in mind: Rutgers.

“I chose Rutgers because I fell in love with both the academic and the athletic communities,” Lee said. “I thought it was a great balance. And most importantly, the team already felt like family to me.”

But perhaps the biggest achievement to note on her resume was when she represented Jamaica at the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2013. 

Lee was afforded the opportunity to apply for dual citizenship because her parents, Desmond and Judith Lee, were born in Jamaica. It gave her the choice to represent Jamaica or the U.S. in future competitions.

Nonetheless, a trip to the World Championships in Belgium meant much more to Lee than the prospects of attracting the attention of college coaches, popularity amongst her classmates in high school and inevitable local publicity. 

Lee believed her experience would help propel her into her first collegiate season and prepare her for the intense Big Ten environment.

“I think representing Jamaica at the World Championships was definitely an eye-opener for me,” Lee said. “It prepared me to compete in front of big audiences and taught me how to control my nerves. And both helped boost my confidence.”

In Rutgers’ inaugural season as a Big Ten Conference competitor, Lee will compete in the floor exercise, balance beam and vault. 

Although the Big Ten is home to some of the best gymnasts in the country, Lee says she is not intimidated. 

A humble Lee spoke highly of the Knights’ ability to overcome adversity in their new conference and rise to prominence as one of the nation’s elite gymnastics programs. 

“I’m more focused on team goals rather personal goals,” Lee said. “I just hope we can win championships, win the Big Ten, make it to regionals again and stay consistent throughout.”

For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Alex Nazarro

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