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Rutgers breaks record on senior night

<p>Alexis Gunzelman helped Rutgers break its record for overall score in a meet.</p>

Alexis Gunzelman helped Rutgers break its record for overall score in a meet.

As the Rutgers gymnastics team entered its final rotation Saturday, the noise level at the Livingston Gym rose.

Freshman Charly Santagado took the floor exercise and scored a career-high 9.875 to start the Scarlet Knights off on the right foot.

They never looked back.

Rutgers (17-3) finished atop the standings with a school-record score of 196.225 in the five-team meet that included No. 17 Central Michigan, Southern Connecticut State, Yale and Towson.

Despite the program-high score, head coach Louis Levine recognizes that the Knights can still improve.

“We’ve talked about how we can put up scores like this and we can be one of the best teams Rutgers has ever had,” Levine said. “Today, they went out and they showed it. This isn’t the penultimate score we can get. We can do better than this, and that’s an exciting thing to know that you break your all-time record and can still do better.”

But Rutgers shattered more records than the program’s overall score.

The Knights scored 49.325 on floor exercise, which topped the previous best of 49.250 from last March.

Freshman Claire Jones contributed to that total with a career high of 9.900 as the second-to-last gymnast in the lineup.

“I told [assistant coach] Kera [Bolen] this week, I wanted to get a 9.900.  That [was] my goal,” Jones said. “On some event this week, I’m going to get a 9.900. I went out there and had fun, that’s the main thing.  I had fun and they gave me a good score for it. So if I get scored like that for having fun, I guess I’ll start doing that a little bit more often.”

Senior Alexis Gunzelman took an uncharacteristic fall on the balance beam and said that it was important to put it out of her mind with one event remaining.

“You have to control it. You can’t control what you’ve done in the past,” Gunzelman said. “You know you’ve done the routine a million times. It sucks falling, but you still have another event, and your team is still counting on you.”

Gunzelman recovered to tie her career best with a 9.900 on floor as the final Rutgers gymnast to compete on an emotional day.

The meet marked the final time that seniors Alyssa Straub, Allie Ivol, Jenna Zito and Gunzelman competed at the Livingston Gym.

“What it comes down to is that without them, we’re not who we are. We’re not where we are,” Levine said. “I had a conversation with one of the seniors’ parents, and their freshman year, we probably would have been happy with a 193. Now that’s a bad meet, and that’s how far we’ve come. I’m going to miss the heck out of them, but it’s not over. We still have three or four meets left, and with that we’ll get back in and see how much more history we can make.”

Jones was emphatic that despite the records, her and Rutgers are not satisfied. Rutgers still has a quad meet Saturday against North Carolina, Brown and William & Mary.

“This [was] a record-breaking week, and I hope next week is a record-breaking meet,” Jones said. “We’re not just going to stop here. We want to get better. [Saturday there were] things that could’ve been better. … This is not the top. This is not the peak at all. We could get a perfect score and wouldn’t be happy with it. [We’re] always hungry.”

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

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