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Knights look to impress at first regionals

<p>Junior Emma Hoffman said Rutgers has worked on improving the smaller details ahead of the team’s first regionals since 2007.</p>

Junior Emma Hoffman said Rutgers has worked on improving the smaller details ahead of the team’s first regionals since 2007.

The goal all season for the Rutgers gymnastics team was simple — qualify for the NCAA Regionals.

The Scarlet Knights earned their first appearance at regionals since 2007, and it is the first time Rutgers has qualified under third-year head coach Louis Levine.

After a program-best third-place finish at the EAGL Championships on March 22 and posting both the highest score on the road at 195.825 and the top-program score of 196.225, the Knights have one more meet to reach perfection.

With their regional berth secured tomorrow in Athens, Ga., freshman Charly Santagado noted that finally making it to regionals takes away some of the stress, but not the pressure of the competition.

“I think at this point a lot of the pressure is not off but we’ve got our RQS, and we’re not all stressed about making regionals so we can relax a little bit and perfect it,” Santagado said. “When you’re all tensed up, it’s hard to do a perfect routine.”

Junior Emma Hoffman said that there was one thing she and her teammates wanted to do.

“We’re just trying to have fun,” Hoffman said. “We do our best when we have fun. When we’re stressed out and we’re trying too hard, it doesn’t usually work out the best for us.”

The Knights will compete against future Big Ten foes Michigan and Ohio State, No. 18 Central Michigan, EAGL rival North Carolina State and host, No. 6 Georgia. The trip to Athens marks the first time Rutgers has visited an SEC school in 13 years, when the Knights competed against Alabama.

It is the second time Rutgers will take the floor against N.C. State, Central Michigan and Ohio State this season.

Rutgers defeated Ohio State on Jan. 19 in the second meet of the season and Central Michigan on March 8 for Senior Day. The Knights tied N.C. State at the EAGL Championships.

Rutgers starts tomorrow’s competition on the balance beam, which works in the Knights’ favor.

“We’ve talked about being calm, cool and confident all year long and really just [need] to continue that,” Levine said. “[We are] starting on beam and that’s what that event is all about.”

Rutgers has been consistent on the balance beam, scoring at least 49.000 in four of its final five meets of the season.

Levine was unsure if nerves would be a factor.

“I don’t know if there are going to be nerves. We get the advantage [that] we’ve started on beam a couple times this year so we kind of know what to expect,” he said. “We’ll just go in there and the girls just have to believe in themselves, because our beam is good enough to compete with all the teams we’re going to compete against this weekend, and that will start us off on the right foot.”

From beam, the Knights will have a bye before moving to floor exercise and vault, followed by a second bye and finish on the uneven bars.

Junior Emma Hoffman said that practice this week focused on fine-tuning the small details.

“We know how to do our skills but it’s mostly our form and our landings,” Hoffman said. “It’s pointing our feet and squeezing our legs together, tight arms, tight legs and landing perfectly. SEC gymnastics [judges], they like big sticks so if we can stick [our dismounts], we’ll be right there with everyone else.”

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

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