September 22, 2019 | 77° F

RU faces final home meet with senior gymnasts

Photo by Nelson Morales |

Senior Nicole Schwartz performs Feb. 11 on the beam. Schwartz and four other seniors compete for the final time at home.

When the Rutgers gymnastics team takes the mat this weekend for its tri-meet against Towson and West Chester, it will be the last time it does so in front of its home crowd.

And while the majority of the team returns to experience the home atmosphere next year, five senior and graduate members of the Scarlet Knights use the equipment at the Livingston Recreation Center for the last time.

With only two meets left in the regular season, this weekend’s home meet is another bittersweet step on the road to the end of the seniors’ careers on the Banks.

“This has all actually been a lot of fun because of course this is my senior year, but I know the season is coming to an end,” said Nicole Schwartz. “It is really hard because I love my team so much. I have been with them for four years, and to know my journey is almost done — it would be hard for anybody.”

Schwartz competes for the Knights on the balance beam, an event she was partial to since she arrived at Rutgers. As she stands on the beam in front of the home crowd, her only expectations are to contribute toward the Knights’ overall score.

“That is the event I love. I always go out and do the best I can,” Schwartz said. “As long as I know that I made it out of my senior season, not getting injured and to go out on beam helping my team the best I can, that is all I want.”

For the younger members of the team who do not leave after this season, the meet is still as emotional. Sophomore all-around leader Alexis Gunzelman aims to honor the seniors by competing the only way she knows how.

“I definitely do not think there is any added pressure. You go into every meet and your goal is to get the high score for the year,” Gunzelman said. “I don’t think there is any reason to put any pressure on yourself. You just have to go out there and do what you have been doing, week in and week out.”

When the Knights placed first in their last meet a week ago, Gunzelman noticed a heightened sense of energy from the team. In the final home meet of the season, Gunzelman wants the passion to continue.

“I hope we can carry that into this week, being as excited and loud as we were. It gives the team the sense of doing for the team, not just yourself,” Gunzelman said. “Everything you do on the gymnastics team now, it is about team work and getting that high score as a team.”

The day will be no less emotional for head coach Louis Levine. When Levine was promoted from assistant to head coach this season after the departure of Chrystal Chollet-Norton, he looked to create a new culture of gymnastics at Rutgers.

Along for the entire ride with him is the class that came to Rutgers the same time Levine started as an assistant. For the first-year head coach, no group has been more beneficial to him than the one he sends off this weekend.

“With the end of Chrystal’s career and the beginning of mine as head coach, we have really been trying to up the level of gymnastics around here,” Levine said. “This senior class has been a huge part of that. The meet this weekend is going to be an exciting day and a sad day all at the same time.”

By Vinnie Mancuso

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