July 20, 2019 | 83° F

Rutgers stumbles short, finishes in second place behind Maryland

Photo by Tianfang Yu |

Sophomore Claire Jones scored a 9.825 on the balance beam on Saturday. She has yet to score less than 9.800 this season.

Disappointment and anguish were written on the faces of nearly every competitor on the Rutgers gymnastics team after the public address announcer read aloud the results of Saturday’s Pink Quad Meet at the Livingston Gym. 

He declared that the Scarlet Knights had finished in second place, just behind Maryland.

With those words, a large portion of the sold out crowd of 972 fans filed out of the arena hanging their heads. Despite the result, the Knights (7-7, 0-6 Big Ten) did put on a great show for the spectators. The squad scored a solid 194.450 and picked up a pair of victories over Cornell (192.700) and Ursinus (189.650).

The Knights kicked the meet off on the vault and got into some early trouble. Freshman Sahara Gibson (9.075) fell down at the conclusion of her routine when she attempted a perfect landing. Junior Jenna Williams (9.050) also had an error in the event going for a perfect landing as well.

Striving for perfection is a good goal to have, but it may have been a reach, for it cost Rutgers a higher score in the event and ultimately the win.

“You have to hit four events if you want to win,” said head coach Louis Levine. “This week it was vault, last week it was beam, the week before it was bars. We went for perfection and it cost us in falls. We went for that perfect stick [landing] and, unfortunately, when you go for a perfect stick, if you’re not right on, you’re on the ground.”

Vault was not entirely bad for the Knights. They posted a solid score of 48.200. Senior captain Luisa Leal put up 9.850 points and earned second place on the event and sophomore April Baker posted a 9.825, good for a fourth place finish.

Rutgers competed on the uneven bars in the second rotation and scored a strong 48.750 points. Williams and senior Captain Emma Hoffman both posted 9.8’s and led their team in the rotation. 

“I’ve been very consistent with it [the bars] all season,” Williams said. “I’m most proud that I can still keep my consistency going throughout the year.”

Williams had extra personal motivation for the breast cancer awareness meet with several family members having battled the disease. The senior admitted to performing with them in mind during the competition. 

“I had two aunts and my mom’s best friend all had breast cancer,” Williams said. “So, for me, it means way more to me than anything because they fought it and they beat it. I just think it’s a great cause because it’s something that is so deathly and to raise money for it so people can get a cure for it and find a cure ... it’s just amazing to me."

In the third rotation, Rutgers competed on the balance beam and scored 48.475. Sophomore Claire Jones continued her consistency this season by posting a 9.825. She has not posted a score below 9.800 this year. Williams (9.675), Groden (9.675) and Junior Claudia Salinas (9.600) all landed high marks.

Leal posted a 9.750 and was pleased with her performance. The meet was the fifth year senior’s final appearance at the Livingston Gym.

“I thought I did pretty good today,” the senior captain said. “I’m very glad and very happy with it because this is my last meet in [the Livingston Gym]. We have one more home meet but it’s at the RAC. The Rec [Livingston Gym] is where I did all my five years that I competed here. This is the last one. It was sentimental and I was very sensible at the beginning of the meet. I was crying and everything but I performed pretty well."

In the fourth and final rotation, the Knights competed on the floor exercise and posted a season-high team mark of 49.025. Jones landed a season-high 9.875 to lead her team. Freshman Jenna Crisalli (9.800) and Hoffman (9.825) both set career-highs in the event. 

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

Evan Bruno

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