August 18, 2019 | 81° F

Rutgers aims to keep balance on beam in quad-meet

Photo by Edwin Gano |

Senior captain Luisa Leal and the Knights strive to improve their balance beam routine when they compete at the Towson quad meet.

A sense of confidence has been present all week at the Livingston Gym, the home of the Rutgers gymnastics team. The Scarlet Knights (8-12, 0-7) finished ahead of a ranked team in then-No. 25 New Hampshire on Sunday.

Despite earning just one victory during the course of two meets last weekend, the team feels ready for its next challenge with its upset over the top-25 Wildcats.

“(The win) gave me a lot of confidence,” said senior captain Luisa Leal. “I’m pretty sure it gave most of the team confidence because you know that you’re good but, hey, the results are not saying the same thing. It’s not until you put a result that actually shows ... you actually realize and believe that you are good.”

Rutgers will travel to Towson University on Friday for a quad meet at 7 p.m. on Friday, featuring the Tigers, Yale and conference foe Michigan State. The competition will be the third consecutive road meet for the Knights, facing the Spartans for the second time this year.

The Spartans (7-5, 2-3) defeated Rutgers on Jan. 31 in a quad meet at the Livingston Gym by just six-tenths of a point (194.950-194.350). Michigan State posted team totals of 48.600 or higher in all four events including a 49.050 mark on the floor exercise.

Rutgers put up a solid total team mark and finished the meet strongly with a 48.875 on the floor exercise in the final rotation.

The Knights had five gymnasts score 9.7 or better in the event. Sophomore Claire Jones posted a 9.875 in her routine.

Michigan State beat the Illinois-Chicago on the road last Sunday by a margin of 194.850-191.150. Alina Cartwright scored a career high 9.900 on the uneven bars to earn first place in the event.

The Spartans had an impressive performance on the floor exercise with a team total of 48.650 and like Rutgers, it is perhaps the team’s strongest event. Elena Lagoski put up a 9.875 and won her sixth floor championship of the season.

Towson (8-8) earned second place in a quad meet hosted by Maryland last Friday. The Tigers recorded a 194.450 team total and finished ahead of William & Mary (190.550). Maryland and George Washington both had total marks of 194.925 and finished tied for first place.

The Tigers posted 48.675 points on vault and were led by sophomore Bridget Steffen who recorded a career high 9.750 in the event.

Yale (5-7) earned their highest team total of the season (192.225) at the Ivy Classic last Sunday. The Bulldogs were awarded third place in the competition featuring Brown, Cornell and Penn.

Three gymnasts competed all-around for Yale in Joyce Li (38.550), Morgan Traina (37.825), and Anella Anderson (36.575). Brittany Sooksengdao snagged first place on the balance beam with a score of 9.800.

Rutgers performed in two road meets last weekend. On Friday evening, the Knights placed fourth in a quad meet at North Carolina State which included the Wolfpack, North Carolina and Kent State. The Tar Heels (194.950) won the competition and finished ahead of the Golden Flashes (194.725), the Wolfpack (194.625) and the Knights (193.950).

Rutgers was exceptional on vault and posted a team score of 48.975. The score tied a season-high and matched the fourth-best score in program history. Leal and freshman Sahara Gipson each recorded 9.825’s to lead the team in the event.

As a team, the Knights have been struggling on the balance beam in two of its last four competitions. The squad's trouble in the event continued at North Carolina State, where it only managed to post a total of 47.250.

“I wish I knew the answer,” head coach Louis Levine said on his team’s recent strife on the beam.

Leal believes that her teammates have to discover a method to control their nerves and emotions in order to have improved performances on beam. The senior has found a way to stay cool under pressure during meets, and her ability has helped her to overcome her anxiety when she competes.

“I learned that every single day in the gym you have to think that every routine you do is like you’re competing,” the captain said. “For the longest time, I tried not to get nervous at meets but then I realized that’s not going to happen. So what could I do? I learned to be okay with being nervous. I just forced myself to be nervous every single day in the gym. That’s kind of how I learned how to deal with it ... it’s different with everybody. We just have to learn how to deal with that little extra pressure.”

Last Sunday afternoon, the Knights landed a 194.825 to place third in a quad meet at West Virginia. Maryland (195.250) finished in first place followed by the Mountaineers (195.200), Rutgers, and then-No. 25 New Hampshire (194.100) finished in fourth. The team's score was it second-highest total this season.

Freshman Elizabeth Groden competed all around for the third consecutive meet and compiled a 38.075 mark. Grodan will have to be at her best on Friday night in order to help her team secure a victory. 

The Knights will be depending on her to account for a large chunk of her their total score.

“I think just stepping up a notch in practice and working on my consistency,” Grodan said on what she needs to focus on to prepare for the competition.

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

Evan Bruno

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