Breaking down Rutgers' lineup ahead of postseason competition
Big Ten Championships are around the corner, and the Rutgers gymnastics team has only two weeks left to finalize its lineups. For some of the Scarlet Knights, this will be their biggest meet of the season, but their hope is to get the entire team through to NCAA regionals afterwards.
Rutgers has no doubt already secured multiple key gymnasts in its event lineups, but anything can happen.
The biggest up-in-the-air question for the Knights is who will compete on the beam at Big Tens.
“Beam is the puzzle we quite haven't figured out yet,” said head coach Umme Salim-Beasley. “Our lineups have never really been solidified on beam and we're trying to find that right formula. It's not from lack of desire or lack of effort. We just have to go up and put it all together at one time.”
All-arounders senior Michelle Amoresano and sophomore Belle Huang have most likely secured their spots in the lineup, but the rest is up for grabs.
True freshman Mia Betancourt worked her way up to vault, beam and floor lineups, but suffered a concussion that set her training a few weeks back. Since coming back to competition, Betancourt hasn’t been the same.
Her main focus right now is on the beam, as it’s the only event she has consistently competed in over the last three meets. Betancourt’s 9.725 at Kent State has a good chance of putting her in the lineup at the Big Ten Championships.
Potential spots also lie with true freshman Kiera Doherty-Herwitz and junior Kaitlyn Hall. Earlier in the season, Doherty-Herwitz excelled in beam, capturing multiple wins in the event, but hasn’t seen much improvement since.
Hall has also been on and off the beam lineup, but like Doherty-Herwitz, has averaged high enough scores to put their names in the event.
The sixth and final spot on beam is really anybody’s game. Senior Jenna Rizkalla could be put on the lineup, although beam hasn’t been her best friend over the weekend, with scores of 9.125 and 9.175.
True freshman Sage Littlejohn shouldn’t be left out of the count too, with her most recent exhibition of 9.675 that would’ve ranked her the third highest Rutgers gymnast in the lineup. She has also been all over the board, with a low of 8.225 on senior night and a solid score of 9.575 at the Big Five meet.
For the floor lineup, senior Riahanah Ali, Huang, Amoresano and Rizkalla are the Knights' most consistent point scorers in the event. Sophomore Toni Williams has started the lineup multiple times this season, and will probably stick with that role heading into Big Ten Championships.
Sophomore Sophia Atienza put together a breakthrough performance and career high of 9.725 at Kent, Ohio. She has been an exhibition on floor a couple of times, but really stepped up when put in the lineup for the second time this season since the season opener.
The bar was set high with the bar lineup against Penn State and at the Big Five meet this season. The order of sophomore Emily Drauss, Ali, Huang, Hall, Amoresano and junior Shannon Farrell have put together the highest team event scores of 48.975 and 48.950.
But, over the past couple of meets, true freshman Abigail Karolewski threw down a massive career high of 9.800 last Sunday, while Drauss has yet to put together consistent scores to secure a spot in the lineup.
The most secure lineup as of right now would be the vault lineup. Williams has consistently started things off for Rutgers, and Hall has closed the lineup more times than one. With Rizkalla’s killer performances on vault, she has a good chance of closing at the conference championships.
Ali, Huang and Amoresano will fill in the middle spots for the Knights’ most consistently-performing lineup.
On March 23, Rutgers will compete at the Big Ten Championships during the noon session, hosted by the Nittany Lions. The Knights will vie for the top spot against Ohio State, Michigan State and Maryland.
“We're so pleased that they were able to have such growth in one season,” Salim-Beasley said. “They don't let mistakes really deter them at all. They dust it off, pick themselves up and the next person goes out to do the best they possibly can.”
For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.