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Rutgers records best team score of 194.600 at home

In its highest overall score of the season, the Rutgers gymnastics team put its best routines forward, but couldn’t quite match Maryland at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights tightened up on their details to record a team score of 194.600 while the Terrapins came in slightly ahead with a 195.275.

“I think they did a fantastic job,” said head coach Umme Salim-Beasley. “We were really just focusing in on doing the best job that we possibly could. They started out, keeping their focus from the first minute to the last minute and just aggressively attacking their routines, building confidence from one to the next.”

Beginning on the vault, Rutgers wasn't able to crack into Maryland’s strong vault performance. With the Terrapins taking the top three spots, junior Kaitlyn Hall was the highest-scoring Knight, securing fourth in the event with a 9.775. 

Sophomore Belle Huang followed in fifth with score of 9.750 while senior Michelle Amoresano recorded a 9.725 to finish up in seventh.

Turning things around for Rutgers on the uneven parallel bars was junior Shannon Farrell, who tied her career high of 9.875 to share the event win with Maryland’s Audrey Barber. Farrell has only competed in bars this season and continues to progress in the event from her 9.675 done at Bridgeport, Connecticut, back on Jan. 12.

“We did great,” Farrell said. “We were very consistent on all four events, and we put up some very good routines. Obviously there are minor details like handstands and sticks that we're going to have to continue to work on to get a better all-around score, but I think we did absolutely amazing tonight and showed a lot of our strength.”

Coming in fifth for the Knights was Huang with a 9.750 followed by senior Riahanah Ali and Hall with a score of 9.675 for eighth place.

From the lowest-scoring event to the highest-scoring event, Rutgers came together on the balance beam in dominant fashion. The Knights shook up the beam lineup for the better, capturing the top four positions and sinking the Terrapins down to a five-way tie for fifth.

In her first performance of the season, freshman Sage Littlejohn started in the lineup for Rutgers.

“One thing that I think the team did really well is they didn't let that miss affect the rest of the routine in the lineup,” Salim-Beasley said. “They stayed relaxed and they kept confident, that way they were able to get up and do some really outstanding routines.”

Freshman Kiera Doherty-Herwitz anchored the lineup for the first time.

She boasted the best team score of 9.825, surpassing her previous career high of 9.700 to claim her first event title of her collegiate career.

“We definitely cracked down on it in the gym,” Doherty-Herwitz said. “We had a lot of coaching based on staying focused, staying in the moment and working on those connections that we had missed in previous meets. It was really a matter of just practicing how we wanted to compete.”

As fresh new talent for the New Jersey crowd, the Bedford, Massachusetts native has excelled on the beam. She’s also practiced on bars and vault, but still needs time to build her skills and routine to be able to perform in competition. 

But now, Doherty-Herwitz is thankful for her newfound state pride and her team’s support in competition.

“I love the support that I get from the team,” Doherty-Herwitz said. “It's really awesome coming in as a freshman and just having everyone behind you, everyone cheering for you.”

On the floor, senior Jenna Rizkalla was the top scorer for the Knights and came in a three-way tie with some Maryland gymnasts, scoring a 9.775. Senior Riahanah Ali and and freshman Mia Betancourt each scored a 9.750 to find themselves in another three-way tie for sixth.

The Knights will compete against Big Ten rival Penn State on Saturday evening, but for the Terrapins' first performance of the season at the RAC, Rutgers stepped up its game in home territory.

“It's really just about having your home crowd behind you and showing everyone what Jersey's made of,” Doherty-Herwitz said.

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

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