Rutgers looks for 1st place finish as Big Ten play heats up
If there’s one thing that’s key in gymnastics, it’s sharpening up on details. That is the focus this week for the Rutgers gymnastics team in the hopes of defeating Big Ten competition this weekend.
The Scarlet Knights will compete against Maryland in the first of three home meets at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) on Saturday. In support of breast cancer awareness, Rutgers is hosting a pink meet with competition beginning at 3 p.m.
“I think that our focus is going to really be the same from last week to this week,” said head coach Umme Salim-Beasley. “Moving into next week is focusing on our details, our stick landings and our connections and making sure that those are quick connections, and we're getting the bonus combinations that we need to get from those connections.”
Last time out, the Knights didn’t believe they posted strong enough scores that reflected their performance in Iowa. Rutgers boasted a score of 191.625, much lower than the 194.325 it scored at its home opener against Nebraska.
The team doesn’t seem deterred in any way and already brushed its worries away to prepare for battle against the Terrapins.
“We just have to keep doing what we do and know that we're more than capable of keeping up with the consistency and just not getting ahead of ourselves when we go to compete because we're doing well in practice,” said sophomore Belle Huang. “We just have to show it off.”
At home, the Knights saw their highest event score on vault for the third time in four competitions with a 48.400. Capturing her second win in the event this season, junior Kaitlyn Hall landed a 9.750 to tie with Iowa’s Bridget Killian for the title.
But, vault was the only event Rutgers was able to score big on, as the Hawkeyes took the top five spots on the beam and bars. Junior Shannon Farrell closed out the last routine for the Knights and scored the highest score of 9.700, while on the other end, Huang and freshman Kiera Doherty-Herwitz settled for sixth with the same score of 9.575.
“I think that they are confident with the routines that they're doing right now,” Salim-Beasley said. “I think they're happy with how they're performing. They do know that there are little things that they have to fix, but I think our biggest thing for the next two home meets is that it's less strain on them to have to travel and then it's a home crowd and then they're familiar with the environment, so I think that's going to help them.”
Maryland is hungry for a win, having logged two consecutive losses against Big Ten foes Illinois and Michigan. Religiously scoring over the 193 mark, the Terrapins have a season-high overall score of 194.950 against the Fighting Illini.
Maryland is looking on par to put together another 193 performance, which is something Rutgers has struggled to do this season.
Out of four meets, the team has only scored more than 193 twice with its highest career score being at home. Even with lower-than-expected scores, the Knights remain hopeful and their confidence hasn’t wavered on their performances at competitions.
“Obviously, being in a home environment is much more fun than competing away,” Huang said. “We can channel that excitement into aggression and power into our gymnastics and as a team, we can help each other stay calm and relaxed amongst each other.”
Learning how to attack routines while maintaining a cool, calm and collected mindset continues to be a work in progress for Rutgers.
The home crowd advantage has the potential to push the Knights more to sharpen up on their details for Saturday's meet.
“We dwell off of the support of our fans, our families and everyone that comes out to support us,” said freshman Mia Betancourt. “We're just going to really rely on the crowd and everyone being so pumped up to pump us up and rely, of course, on ourselves and the confidence that we have and the confidence that we're going to build next week at practice.
For updates on the Rutgers gymnastics team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.