Rutgers scores season high against Central Michigan
After a busy weekend of traveling that saw two meets in two cities, the Rutgers gymnastics team ended on a high note as it now gets ready to gear up for one final meet before the Big Ten Championships, set to take place at the Rutgers Athletic Center on March 18.
The Scarlet Knights (10-11, 1-4) finished their double weekend off with a flourish — notching a season-high score of 194.975 against Central Michigan just days after finishing third with a 192.550 behind Southeast Missouri and Texas Woman’s University.
“It was the best meet of the season,” said head coach Lou Levine. “We showed a lot of heart today and many encouraging signs. I look forward to building off this meet as we go into the Big Five and Big Ten meets the next two weeks.”
Rutgers’ best meet came on the heels of one of its worst. After a streak of six straight meets scoring a 194 or higher, the Knights lost that streak — and a chance of winning the meet — Friday night in Missouri.
Even with first-place finishes out of sophomore Michelle Amoresano, junior Makenzey Shank and senior April Baker, it wasn’t enough to pull Rutgers out of an early hole. But the Knights responded two days later.
“Sometimes the best way to get over a bad performance is to get right back out there and compete again,” Levine said. “Luckily for us coming off of that (first) performance, we did a great job tonight.”
Rutgers came out of the gates swinging, tallying a season-high 48.800 on the uneven bars. Shank led the pack with a 9.800 which tied her for a third-place finish. Amoresano and Baker followed closely behind with a pair of 9.775 scores with junior Libby Groden and freshman Erin McLachlan rounding out the scoring with 9.750 and 9.700s, respectively.
Next came vault where sophomores Riahanah Ali and Amoresano led the team with their scores of 9.750 — good for a third-place tie. Again, Groden and McLachlan followed with 9.725 scores of their own. Senior Claire Jones also scored a 9.675 to give the Knights a total score of 48.600.
Rutgers wasn’t done yet. For the second time this season, the Knights totaled over 49.000 on floor with their 49.025. Sophomore Jenna Rizkalla led the team, tying a career-high with a 9.850, but could not find the podium. Groden helped her all-around cause with a 9.825 while her classmate Shank finished with a career-best 9.800. Ali, the Michigan native competing in her home state, and Amoresano finished things off with matching scores of 9.775.
The day ended on beam where Shank scored big and netted a career-best tying 9.900 — enough for a first-place tie. Jones and Groden also had some big scores on the afternoon with their 9.875 and 9.775's, respectively. Rutgers finished with a 48.550.
Shank attributed the success of the second meet in part to the disappointing first meet.
“I think it was the first meet that made us really get up for the second meet,” she said. “I know we tried our hardest for the first meet, but we just had an off day. Then going into the second meet we really just wanted to leave it all out on the floor, give everything we had, be aggressive and not hold back, and I think that really worked out in our favor.”
Groden, who came away with a mediocre 38.300 all-around score Friday night, finished with a career-high 39.075 Sunday afternoon.
“I’m really happy with my performance,” Groden said. “It was my career high all around so I'm really excited about that. After the first meet, I was a little bummed but I just tried to move past that and take it one step at a time and move on to the next meet.”
The Knights are going to need Groden and every one of her teammates to step up two more times in the coming weeks with conference championships looming.
“We got two big meets coming up, and hey, you go in there and anything can happen on any given day,” Levine said.
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