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Senior, Rutgers aim for consistent meet

<p>Senior Alexis Gunzelman looks to improve upon her career-high all-around score last Saturday in the Rutgers quad meet.</p>

Senior Alexis Gunzelman looks to improve upon her career-high all-around score last Saturday in the Rutgers quad meet.

Senior Alexis Gunzelman has had quite the up-and-down performances in the Rutgers gymnastics team’s past three meets.

She earned a career-high all-around score of 39.35 on Feb. 9 at George Washington, then broke it last Saturday with a 39.4 in a quad meet at home.

In between, she had a performance she would rather forget.

Not only was her score of 38.025 well below her previous season low, but it was also her worst performance in 17 meets, dating back to May 2012.

“After my performance last week, I knew I had to go into the gym confident and I think I really got it back,” Gunzelman said.

The Knights have been similarly inconsistent as a team since they started out with three team scores around 195 in their first three meets.

In the next two meets, they followed with scores below 193.5 but seem to be progressing with a 194.575 in their meet last weekend with No. 18 Penn State, Temple and Ursinius.

“I think it’s about remembering what we did in those first three meets and what we need to figure out,” Gunzelman said. “I think a lot of it was that we did not have anything else to focus on except gymnastics.”

The team’s first three meets occurred when class was not in session during winter break.

“We are integrating both school and outside studies and stuff like that,” Gunzelman said. “We have to be able to balance that and I think some days we come into practice and we’re tired, but we need to be able to work through those and that’s what we’re figuring out.”

Penn State was the second ranked team Rutgers faced this year. It defeated No. 22 Ohio State early in the season.

“Any time you get one of those top-25 programs it’s obviously a chance to step up and show how good you are,” said head coach Louis Levine. “Mostly I think we did a good job [against Penn State].”

If the Knights hope to accomplish their team goal of qualifying for the NCAA Regionals, they have to start figuring it out now with only four meets remaining. They begin with a dual-meet at Cornell tomorrow.

Rutgers’ current regional qualifying score of 194.615 puts them 30th in the nation.

If the season ended today, they would fall outside of the top 18 teams that automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament. They would be one of six teams in the Northeast Regionals at Penn State’s campus fighting for two tickets to the gymnastics championship in Birmingham, Ala.

The Knights have faced injuries like this, beginning with an injury to freshman April Baker in the second meet of the season at Kent State.

Junior Luisa Leal — arguably one of the team’s top two gymnasts — and bars specialist Emma Hoffman were both injured at Texas Women’s University on Feb. 1.

Hoffman performed for the first time since the injury last weekend, and Levine hinted that another gymnast might be coming back soon, although he did not specify whom.

“It felt really great definitely to get out of practice and show what I can do for the team,” Hoffman said. “Just to get back out there and contribute.”

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

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