Rutgers leapfrogs No. 22 Ohio State for podium finish at Big Five Meet
Competing on podium at the Big Five Meet, the Rutgers gymnastics team snuck past No. 22 Ohio State to tally a team score of 194.650 for fourth place against some of the top teams in the nation. No. 8 Michigan climbed to the top of the leaderboard with a 197.750 score.
The Scarlet Knights are slated to compete in the noon session at the Big Ten Championships along with the Buckeyes. From the other Big Five Meet held in Toledo, Ohio, Maryland and Michigan State will also compete in the earlier session at Big Tens.
"I couldn't be more proud," said head coach Umme Salim-Beasley. "The team stayed focused throughout. We did have a miss on floor and a miss on beam, but the lineup didn't waver. They just did what they needed to do and made up for the miss so we didn't have to count a fall."
Rutgers started out with its highest event score of 49.000 on floor, posting at or above the 49 mark for the third time this season. The Knights were led by sophomore Belle Huang in a three-way tie for fourth at 9.875.
Senior Riahanah Ali never fails to bring her energy on floor, and finished her routine in a tie for ninth with a score of 9.825.
"Starting with a 49.000 was great," Salim-Beasley said. "Floor is one of our stronger events, so it was a good place for us to be able to set the tone. We had an early miss. (Freshman Abigail Karolewski) had fallen, but the rest of the team just didn’t let up. They encouraged each other. They knew that they could make up for the miss.”
Running up to vault, senior Michelle Amoresano posted Rutgers’ highest place in the event with a 9.800 for 10th. Junior Kaitlyn Hall and Ali trailed Amoresano with respective scores of 9.725 and 9.775.
Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois took many of the top slots on the uneven bars, leaving the Knights with junior Shannon Farrell at 9.825 for 15th. Huang and sophomore Emily Drauss came in close behind Farrell to tie for 20th with a score of 9.800.
Closing out on beam, Rutgers struggled to keep pace with its fellow Big Ten opponents with Huang scoring the Knights’ highest in the event with a 9.675 for 18th.
“Beam isn’t the easiest to finish on, but they stayed really composed and I know our scores don’t reflect what we did, but we had no major wobbles,” Salim-Beasley said. “We made our routines, so I think they finished very, very strong. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get into the 195 because that’s where I think we should’ve scored, but it’s nice to see we got another Big Ten win.”
Huang was able to put up a strong showing for Rutgers with a tie for seventh in an all-around score of 39.050. Amoresano and Ali came within the top 10 all-around with respective scores of 38.950 (9th) and 38.850 (10th).
“It was a really exciting atmosphere for them,” Salim-Beasley said. “Competing for podium feels so professional and feels like you’re on a grander scale, so they really enjoyed it.”
The last time the Knights won against a nationally ranked team was winning a close battle to then No. 25 Penn State with a 196.050 — Rutgers’ second-highest team score in program history. After scoring within the top three at the other Big Five Meet in Nebraska, the Nittany Lions captured the final spot in the night session at Big Tens.
Although the Knights didn’t make it to the Big Ten evening session, they haven’t beaten a team at a Big Five meet since joining the conference five years ago.
“This was a nice step for us,” Salim-Beasley said. “Another Big Ten win just proves that we are capable of competing with the other schools in our conference. We are not done yet."
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