September 22, 2019 | 69° F

Rutgers mounts another moral victory in defeat to North Carolina, Maryland


Senior Jenna Williams scored a 9.875 on the uneven bars for Rutgers in their loss to North Carolina Friday's quad-meet hosted by North Carolina State in Raleigh.

In a demanding weekend, the Rutgers gymnastics team couldn't quite keep up. The Scarlet Knights suffered five defeats to just one victory.

The Knights (8-12, 0-7) kicked off their road trip Friday at North Carolina State's Reynolds Coliseum. Rutgers posted a team score of 193.950 to earn fourth place in the quad-meet featuring North Carolina, Kent State and the Wolfpack.

The Tar Heels earned first place with a team mark of 194.950 followed by Kent State (194.725), North Carolina State (194.625) and Rutgers.

“It was three really good events, and I thought we came out strong,” saidhead coach Louis Levine said. “We were in the lead by a pretty good distance, and we weren’t able to close it out.

The Knights began the meet in their most consistent area: the floor exercise. The squad put up a 48.975 team total and all six competitors posted a score of 9.7 or higher. Sophomore Claire Jones anchored the rotation with a 9.875 and earned a tie for second place in the event.

The second rotation featured Rutgers on the vault where it posted 48.975 to tie a season-high score. The team total matched the fourth best score in program history. 

Senior captain Luisa Leal and freshman Sahara Gipson each posted a 9.825 to lead the Knights in the event. Gipson and Leal earned ties for second place in vault competition.

“I think we’re talented,” Levine said. “Matter of fact, April (Baker) wasn’t able to vault this weekend and she’s one of our better vaulters. It just shows the depth that we have and the abilities that we have. We’ve got one through eight (vaulters) we can put any one of those eight up and put up some really big scores.”

Junior Jenna Williams scored a 9.850 on the uneven bars to pilot the Knights to a 48.750 team total. Senior Sara Skammer, senior Emma Hoffman and sophomore April Baker all contributed 9.7’s. Meanwhile, freshman Elizabeth Grodan posted a season-high score of 9.800 in the event.

Levine has been demanding the need for consistency throughout all four events all season long and it is an aspect that his team has failed to accomplish so far this year. In yet another contest, the Knights fell short of achieving Levine’s goal.

Rutgers performed on the balance beam during the final rotation and it was a woeful event. 

Junior Claudia Salinas recorded a 9.750, the only gymnast with a score higher than a 9.7. Jones (8.875), freshman Makenzey Shank (9.150) and Williams (9.175) all struggled on beam.

“We got into a little snow ball effect on beam and unfortunately it got to the point where we didn’t close out the meet,” Levine said.

Despite the mishaps, Leal (9.675) and junior Claudia Salinas (9.750) had solid routines and managed to guide the Knights to a 47.250 team score. 

Even more disappointing for Rutgers correlates to the fact that it was in first place entering the fourth rotation at 146.700, but the team did not keep a firm grasp on the lead lost it in the end.

Grodan’s recent success serves as a positive from which the Knights can build. The freshman performed all around in consecutive meets and scored 38.900 in Friday’s competition. 

With season-highs in the event, she was awarded third place all-around by the judges to conclude her big day.

“She’s been doing a good job,” Levine said. “We knew she had the capabilities to compete all-around.”

Rutgers continued its road trip on Sunday with a matinee matchup in Morgantown, West Virginia, against Maryland (195.350), the Mountaineers (195.200) and No. 25 New Hampshire (194.100). The Knights bounced back from Friday’s performance and scored 194.825 in the quad-meet.

Rutgers did earn a victory against No. 25 New Hampshire, but the team’s score was only good enough for a third place finish. Maryland won the competition and therefore, the Knights are still winless in Big Ten play.

“I thought today we had a really good meet,” Levine said on Sunday. “We had a little mistake on bars there. We came back really strong on beam. That was something I was looking for especially after Friday’s performance. We did really good on floor and vault, and we were good on beam today.”

The first rotation began with the Rutgers performing on the floor exercise, and all six gymnasts posted a 9.6 or higher. The squad posted a team mark of 48.825. 

Jones had yet another solid outing on the floor and scored a 9.825, while sophomore Charly Santagado also put up an impressive 9.800 mark.

Leal posted a 9.800 in the second rotation on vault and led her team to a 48.725 total in the event. Williams sustained her consistency with a 9.750. Skammer, Gipson, and junior Nicolette Wilson all scored 9.725’s.

In the third rotation, the Knights posted a team total 48.450 on the uneven bars. Williams (9.850) and Santagado (9.825) executed solid routines, while Baker (9.775) and Skammer (9.750) registered exceptional scores as well.

Grodan competed all-around for the third consecutive meet and earned 38.075 points for a second place finish.

Rutgers had a chance to win entering the final rotation — the balance beam. The event is regarded as perhaps the most difficult in all of gymnastics. 

The Knights posted a total score of 48.825 in the event, but the mark was not high enough to boost Rutgers over the Terps.

All six gymnasts who competed on beam posted scores of 9.725 or higher. Jones and Williams both put up 9.825’s in the rotation to head the team. 

Despite the third place finish, the Knights substantially improved from their previous meet at North Carolina State.

“There’s positives to take away from all this stuff,” Levine said. "There’s just that little bit missing that is keeping us from higher scores and losing meets.”

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

Evan Bruno

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