Floor exercise gives sophomores chance to perform

<p>Sophomore Katie Stebick earned a 9.825 last weekend on floor exercise. The score helped Rutgers to a program-high score of 49.325 in the event.</p>

Sophomore Katie Stebick earned a 9.825 last weekend on floor exercise. The score helped Rutgers to a program-high score of 49.325 in the event.

Each event in gymnastics has its own personality.

Vault is quick and powerful and is over in a matter of seconds. The uneven bars require grace and look effortless. Balance beam shows fearlessness.

Floor exercise allows gymnasts to blend personality, performance and athleticism into a 90-second routine.

The Rutgers gymnastics team has two gymnasts who have competed only on floor this season in sophomores Katie Stebick and Danielle Verdon.

Both list floor as their favorite event to compete on, but have competed only in the event this season for two very different reasons.

Stebick has competed on floor at every meet this year and tied her season-high last weekend with a 9.825.

“I work the other events but floor is my favorite to perform, it’s my favorite to compete and it’s the event that I’m the strongest on,” Stebick said. “I love the performance. I love showing it off to the crowd and getting the crowd into it and watching my team do my routine on the side.”

Verdon, who tied her career-high 9.825 on senior day, said injuries have played a role in her competing just the one event this season.

“I was recruited for all four events [but] last year I hurt my ankle and I hurt my shoulder a little so floor is so far all I’ve been really succeeding at,” Verdon said. “But I’ve been trying to get in the beam lineup so I’m working beam, I’ve been trying to work vault because [that] is what I hurt my ankle on and my shoulder’s getting better, so I’m trying to work bars.”

Head coach Louis Levine credited the Scarlet Knights’ depth on the event to the scores they have put up this season, including last weekend’s program-best 49.325.

“For the most part, we have a really good, really deep floor team,” Levine said. “It’s the competition from week to week to get in the lineup that makes that one of the most consistent events for us from year to year to year.”

It creates a competitive environment for the 18 gymnasts fighting for six competitive spots for each meet plus one exhibition.

Past performance and practice plays a key role.

“A lot goes into it — how practices go during the week [and] how the season’s gone so far. Sometimes it even comes down to how warm-ups go,” Levine said. “So really, it depends from week to week. There [are] so many girls who can do good floor routines and compete week in and week out for those six spots and even the seventh spot that can exhibition.”

The challenge for Stebick is being consistent.

“I would say that the most challenging aspect for me is the consistency in all of my passes,” Stebick said. “Just making sure that I’m where I need to be to land on my feet every time.”

One of those passes is her opening tumbling pass, which she says was the most difficult to learn.

“My first pass [in my routine], which is a two and a half punch front,” Stebick said. “There’s a lot of twisting and then a punch [front] at the end.”

Verdon alluded to the difficulty of balancing focus and still enjoying the performance.

“Being able to show it off and make it look like you’re having a really good time and then being able to still be focused,” Verdon said.

With sometimes three events before they are taking the floor, both Stebick and Verdon attested that waiting to compete does not become difficult.

“It can be difficult but you just let yourself get absorbed into the rest of the meet and you take it event by event,” Stebick said. “You don’t even think about floor until you get there and when you [do] get there, you just make sure you’re ready to go.”

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

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