Libby Groden to represent Rutgers at NCAA Regionals
For the third straight year, junior Libby Groden will represent the Rutgers gymnastics team at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Regionals in West Virginia this Saturday at 4 p.m.
Groden, who will compete in all four events as she has done as an all-around competitor, will be making the trip to WVU Coliseum without the rest of her teammates. The rest of the Scarlet Knights will remain at Rutgers but will be cheering for her every step of the way.
“It’s definitely going to be a little more difficult (without my teammates there),” Groden said. "I wish my whole team was with me — I wish we made it as a team, but I know they are with me in spirit as I go into this meet so I’m really excited.”
Head coach Louis Levine will make the trip with Groden and is not worried about his all-arounder considering she has been in this exact situation two years in a row.
In 2016, Levine and Groden traveled to Michigan where Groden put up a 39.025 as a sophomore. The year before that, during her freshman season, Groden tallied a 38.850. That year’s competition was also in West Virginia.
If she performs the way she is capable of and the way she has performed all season, Levine said Groden will do just fine.
“I expect Libby to go in and do what she does, and that’s hit routines,” Levine said. “We are going there to do the best we can and whatever happens, happens. She is very consistent meet to meet and day-in and day-out. That is one of her biggest strengths.”
Consistency is right. Out of her 48 routines she has performed this season, 37 of them have received scores of 9.700 or higher. That consistency netted her a Second Team All-Big Ten selection.
Groden also goes into the competition with a regional qualifying score (RQS) of 38.940. Her most consistent event is floor exercise where she’s averaged a 9.800, but she has scored as high as 9.825 in that event this season. Her other season-highs are 9.750 on vault (9.725 RQS), 9.800 on bars (9.735 RQS) and 9.850 on beam (9.780 RQS).
Groden’s season-high all around score came on March 5 at Central Michigan — Rutgers coincidentally scored a season-high team score that day as well — where she received a 39.075, a career-high. She has reached the 39.000 mark eight times in her career, three of which came this year.
When asked what she has learned from previously being at Regionals, the veteran didn’t sound nervous at all. Groden has been there before and has learned to just have fun.
“I’ve learned that this is just a meet to have fun and just show off what I’ve been working really hard at this whole season,” she said. “So it’s just a no pressure meet and I’m ready to have fun.”
Because the competition will be a six-rotation meet, Groden will have two bye rotations, with one of them coming right off the bat. After her first rotation bye, Groden will start the competition with uneven bars followed by balance beam. After her second bye, she will work her way to floor exercise and finish the day on vault.
The top two all-around competitors from the regional who are not from an advancing team will receive an automatic berth to the national championships in St. Louis from April 14-15.
Groden’s last time competing came on March 18 during the Big Ten Championships where she tallied an all around score of 38.950 to help the Knights capture ninth place out of ten teams. Although her last time out came two weeks ago, Groden doesn’t see the time off as a bad thing.
“It’s the end of the season, so having that extra week I think is some good rest,” she said. “At the same time it gives me a little more time to get ready and focus on the details for this weekend.”
Despite the season ending for Rutgers quicker than it would have liked, Groden is excited about what the future holds for the gymnastics program.
“I think there is always ways to improve,” she said. “There is always places to get better and I think this season, it was alright, but I think we’re really focusing on making Rutgers a better program and continuing to improve each year because that’s always the end goal.”
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