July 18, 2019 | 81° F

Rutgers seniors bid farewell to Livingston Recreation Center in second-place finish

Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

Junior Libby Groden led her team in all-around points Saturday night with a score of 39.000.

Coming off of a 194-point performance at Ohio State last week, the Rutgers gymnastics team competed at home one final time this season in front of a sellout crowd at the Livingston Recreation Center while also honoring its seniors against Maryland, Penn and Yale.

The Scarlet Knights (10-6, 1-4) scored season highs on both vault and beam, normally putting them on their way to another meet win. Unfortunately, they stumbled on bars, an area that they have struggled all season in, and couldn’t quite come all the way back.

“For bars I think it’s confidence,” said junior Libby Groden when asked how they can improve in that area. “It’s being able to hit under pressure. We go in the gym every single day and we can hit routines and we’ve got to be able to do that (during meets).”

Despite not having its best night on bars, Coach Levine liked what he saw out of his team.

“I think we took a step in a direction that I really like,” Levine said. “I thought we did some really great bar routines, we just didn’t do enough of them. There were just same major mistakes that we unfortunately couldn’t come back from.”

Rutgers, sporting its pink and black uniforms for its breast cancer awareness campaign, looked ready from the start after recording a season high score of 48.725 on vault, led by sophomore Michelle Amoresano and her score of 9.800, a new season high of her own and good for third on the night.

“I thought we did a lot of really positive things today,” Levine said. “I mean vault – vault was the best vault we’ve done this year.”

After finishing the first rotation in first place, the second rotation on the uneven bars was coming up. With a few mishaps, the Knights finished with a score of 47.925 and quickly lost their lead to Maryland. Despite that, senior April Baker did score a 9.775 that netted her a third place finish.

On Baker's exceptional performance at her last regular season home meet, Groden emphasized the leadership and poise she and the other seniors brought to the team night in and night out.

“The seniors are like the best cheerleaders on the team as well as gymnasts,” she said. “They added a lot to our team and I’m really sad to see them go.”

Next came the balance beam, which has been Rutgers’ best event all season, and it would not disappoint. With a score of 48.850, another season high, the Knights took all three top spots on the night. Junior Makenzey Shank came in first with a score of 9.850, followed by senior Claire Jones and her 9.825 while Groden rounded out the top three with a 9.775. Freshman Polina Poliakova also scored a season high of 9.750.

“I actually tried not to think about it,” Jones said when asked about how her senior night went. “I didn’t get emotional until my best friend and roommate started crying, but it went well, scores were good and my team is just awesome.”

Still in second place behind Maryland, Rutgers would need a near perfect score on floor to have a shot at coming in first place. The Knights went on to score a 48.650 and finished with a total score of 194.150, behind Maryland’s 195.050. Groden tallied a 9.775 to lead her team and was good for third on the night. She received first place with her all-around score of 39.000.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Groden said. “39.0 is a score that I’m happy to have. It’s an improvement from the past meet that we had and I’m always looking to go up and up.”

Coach Levine was proud of how his team handled themselves and fought until the end, but knows there is still work to be done.

“I thought we went out there and we kept fighting through from the beginning of routines till the end of routines,” Levine said. “Overall we (have) got to keep getting better if we want to do what our goals are and really just try and keep pushing forward.”

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

Robert Sanchez

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