Rutgers faces tall task at Big Five Meet
With one final meet separating the Rutgers gymnastics team and the Big Ten Championships, it’s time for all hands on deck as the Scarlet Knights (10-11, 1-4) head to Iowa City, Iowa for the Big Five Meet on Saturday at 4 p.m., set to be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
After a season-high score of 194.975 last week at Central Michigan, Rutgers finished the regular season on a high note and is ready to go out and compete, despite the weekly grind that comes with collegiate gymnastics.
“It’s championship time, I don’t know that I really need to say too much at all to really get them motivated,” said head coach Lou Levine. “They are motivated.”
In Iowa, the Knights will take on No. 16 Iowa, No. 11 Michigan, Minnesota and Penn State — the other Big Ten teams Rutgers did not face in the regular season. The five other teams, whom the Knights did see this season, will be squaring off in a Big Five Meet of their own in Champaign, Illinois at 3 p.m.
Because the Big Five Meet is a qualifying meet, the three teams with the highest scores this Saturday in both meets will move on to the top six and face off with one another in the Big Ten Championships hosted by Rutgers inside the Rutgers Athletic Center on March 18 at 5 p.m. The bottom four teams will also compete against each other inside the RAC, but with an earlier start time of 12 p.m.
The Knights hope to be competing later in the day, but that could be a lot to ask as five out of the top 25 gymnastics teams come out of the Big Ten — tied for second for the most represented conference. Rutgers also currently sits in 9th place in the Big Ten conference, ahead of the only conference team it beat this season — Michigan State.
Since there will be five teams out on the mat at the same time during the Big Five Meet, the most the Knights will have seen this season, it could get a little hectic. But with only four events and five teams, each team will be given a bye rotation.
Sophomore Michelle Amoresano believes that time off will prove to be useful for her and the team.
“Since there are four other teams, we have a bye rotation,” Amoresano said. “And I think that’s a good time to really focus on the next event and just getting in the right mindset.”
Levine's team has improved slower than he would have liked over the course of the season, but his message every week remains the same.
“Okay, how today do we get one little step better,” he said. “And then tomorrow to get another step better than that. We’re on the cusp of some really great gymnastics — we’ve got to put it all together as a group.”
Rutgers knows it is close and will continue to fight to get to where they want to be.
Even after a long and tiring season that saw early mornings and late nights, bus rides and plane delays, the Knights know they need to keep these last couple of weeks fun and loose.
“I think we’re still having fun,” Amoresano said. “Everybody is still continuing to build a close relationship and we just want to make the last two meets the best because the seniors are going to be gone pretty soon.”
And despite the record, the sixth year gymnastics coach has been incredibly proud of his team’s resolve and never-quit attitude.
“They’ve constantly battled,” he said. “They’ve continued and continued to push hard and fight for every tenth and we’ve just been one step away. We’ve gotta be able to take that step, and hopefully with these last two weeks we can take that step.”
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