July 19, 2019 | 93° F

Rutgers hunts for first Big Ten win at No.22 Ohio State

Photo by Daphne Ava |

Sophomore Claire Jones said she has a personal hatred for Ohio State, fueling the gymnast to knock-off the No.22 Buckeyes.

The gauntlet continues for the Rutgers gymnastics team this Sunday when it travels to take on No. 22 Ohio State. The Scarlet Knights face-off against another ranked conference foe for the fifth consecutive meet.

The Knights (5-5, 0-4) travel down a difficult road in the Big Ten, as the team searches for their first conference victory. Rutgers has been inches away from achieving multiple conference wins in the previous two meets.

However, the Knights have fallen short both times. They lost to then No. 6 Nebraska and No. 21 Michigan State by less than one point in consecutive outings.

“We need to go in and win,” said head coach Louis Levine. “We have to hit our events. I think we can compete with the teams we’re competing against.

Senior Luisa Leal competed for her squad and had her most impressive meet of the year last weekend. The team captain posted 9.850 in vault and 9.775 on beam to lead her team to overall scores of over 48 points in both events.

Leal has been one of the Knights’ top gymnasts this season, keeping her team levelheaded despite the close margins in the losses.

“We’re all on the same page,” Leal said. “We all want the same things, and right now the team has one mentality. Losing by such a low score — yes, it makes you angry. But hey, we’re right there. That’s all we need to know.”

Sophomore Claire Jones has performed up to par for Rutgers as well. She has become one of the best competitors on the team.

Jones received one of the loudest ovations from the fans last week against Michigan State after posting an impressive 9.825 on the floor exercise.

She broke into the beam rotation last weekend and looks to keep her hot streak alive against the Buckeyes.

“I need to work my butt off here [in practice],” Jones said. “I like to go into competition exactly the way I practiced. I just got to make my practices 9.9 practices. I’m not going to leave any room for doubt. Every time I do a pass, I’m going to make it as perfect as I possibly can.”

The Buckeyes (3-2, 1-2) come off a loss at No. 25 Minnesota last weekend, 196.320-194.550. Prior to Sunday’s meet with the Knights, the Buckeyes travel to Bowling Green to compete against the Falcons on Friday afternoon.

OSU lost to Rutgers last season at St. Johns Arena, 195.275-194.775. While the two had yet to meet as conference opponents, the win marked the Rutgers’ first win against a Big Ten school in program history.

The Buckeyes rank 16th in the nation for highest average on the beam at 48.763, but the Knights are poised to challenge that mark.

Rutgers posted a 48.000 on beam last week, led by Jones (9.850) and junior Claudia Salinas (9.875).

Jones shows no love for the Buckeyes and hopes to guide her team to their first conference victory of the season.

“I have a personal hatred for Ohio State,” said Jones on the Knights’ opponent this weekend. “I have a little bit of bad blood with them. So, I honestly just want to wipe the floor with them … I’m ready to get a win.”

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

Evan Bruno

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