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Rutgers sets school mark at champs

In a season full of broken records, the Rutgers gymnastics team added one more to its collection Saturday at the EAGL Championships.

The Scarlet Knights scored a 195.275 to finish tied for third with North Carolina State, behind hosts New Hampshire and the Maryland.

The third place finish was the program’s top score at the conference championships.

Senior Alexis Gunzelman scored at least a 9.700 on all four events to score a 39.125 in the all-around and finished fourth.

“I’m super proud of my team. Floor and vault, score-wise didn’t really go the way we wanted it to … but my team recovered really well,” Gunzelman said of the first two rotations. “We went 24-for-24 [and] it’s the first time we’ve done that all season, so I’m really proud of my team for sticking it out to the end and not giving up.”

Head coach Louis Levine was proud of his team’s finish and excited at the prospect of the postseason.

“I think the highest before that was fifth. It’s a great feeling and we’re going to find out where we’re going to regionals in a couple hours, so the season goes on,” Levine said. “We have two more weeks to get ready and try to pull a shocker and see what happens. Right now, we’re happy with where we’re at and there’s still more to come.”

The Knights are currently ranked 32nd in the country with a regional qualifying score of 195.340 and will compete on April 5 in the Athens regional against Georgia, Michigan, Central Michigan, Ohio State and EAGL rival North Carolina State.

Freshman Claire Jones competed at her first conference championship.

While she was nervous, she did not let those nerves affect her performance.

“I just went in like I did every day,” Jones said. “Before every event my coach Kera Bolen said ‘It’s just me and you in the gym like every other day. Yeah, there’s [seven] other schools here, you have a thousand-plus people here, but it’s just you and me in the gym like every single day.’”

For Gunzelman and seniors Alyssa Straub, Jenna Zito and Allie Ivol, it is the first time the team has qualified for regionals in their four years as Knights.

Gunzelman qualified last season as an individual in the all-around but was happy that the team qualified in her final year of competition.

“I’m so excited. I knew going into the start of the season that this team had the potential to do it,” Gunzelman said. “To go in this past weekend, knowing that we had qualified for regionals because there wasn’t a team that could catch us from behind was so exhilarating and exciting. This has never happened, at least while I’ve been here.”

The Knights finished the meet on balance beam, where they scored a 49.100.

The score tied a season high set March 1 at Cornell and was enough to boost Rutgers into a tie for third with the Wolfpack.

Jones finished second to last in the beam lineup that was bookended with Straub and Gunzelman, and wanted to hit her routine for her senior teammates.

“Before I went, I wasn’t really worried about the score,” Jones said. “I wanted to hit my beam routine for Alexis Gunzelman. She’s coming to the end of her career and … she’s done the hard work and now it’s my turn. It’s more personal for me because I wanted Alexis to go up there and have a good time and not have to worry about falling.”

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

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