Rutgers falls in East Lansing

Reaching above the 194 mark in 4 of the last 5 weeks, the Rutgers gymnastics team was unable to come out on top against Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan on Saturday afternoon. The Scarlet Knights put together a score of 194.100, falling to the Spartans' 195.425. 

Rutgers took a major blow in three of their lineups with the absence of freshman Mia Betancourt, who suffered a concussion in practice last week. Betancourt competed in vault, beam and floor for the Knights, and it’s unclear when she will return to competition.

“We changed our lineup around because Mia Betancourt is concussed,” said head coach Umme Salim-Beasley. “We had to put someone else in her spot, and it didn’t pan out the way we would’ve liked it to, but I think the team really stayed composed from the start to finish.”

In the wake of Betancourt’s injury, Rutgers managed to secure first-place finishes in the vault event. Subbing in for Betancourt was senior Jenna Rizkalla, whose exhibition in vault last weekend landed her a start in the lineup and an event title. 

Alongside her was senior Michelle Amoresano and four other Michigan State gymnasts for a six-way tie with a score of 9.775.

The Knights couldn’t match the Spartans’ home advantage, as Michigan State claimed event titles in the other three events, all above the 9.8 mark.

In the uneven bars event, Amoresano and junior Shannon Farrell led Rutgers with a 9.800 score for a three-way tie for third, while junior Kaitlyn Hall fell right behind with a 9.750.

Sophomore Belle Huang managed to push past a pack of Spartans gymnasts for second place with a stick in a score of 9.800. The Knights' next best finisher was Amoresano with a 9.675 score for seventh place.

Senior Riahanah Ali earned the highest floor score for Rutgers with a 9.850 for third place. Rizkalla and Huang were both caught in a three-way tie for fifth with scores of 9.800.

"The team was very steady today," Salim-Beasley said. "There weren't a lot of peaks and valleys. I think they were pretty steady from start to finish. I think they were really able to keep their focus.”

In the all-around results, Huang posted a score of 38.900 behind Michigan State for second. Amoresano and Ali followed behind Huang with respective scores of 38.850 and 38.775.

Salim-Beasley isn’t overwhelmingly pleased or disappointed with the results, but is calling for better action to be taken for fair judging in a sport that relies heavily on subjective scores. 

“It has a lot to do with the judging,” Salim-Beasley said. “Unfortunately, you tend to see lopsided judging when you are the away team, and it’s something as a sport that we need to work on."

Coupled with the judging bias, the Knights are right in the middle of its season and without Betancourt, Rutgers is going to have to step up its game at every competition until she is able to return. 

Last weekend competing against Penn State, Betancourt replaced all of her career highs in vault (9.750), beam (9.750) and floor (9.775). She has improved, but because of her injury, the Knights will need to adapt fairly quickly to prepare for its biggest competition this season.

Next time out, Rutgers is traveling to Ohio for the Big Five meet against conference foes Illinois, No. 8 Michigan, No. 16 Minnesota and No. 22 Ohio State.

“It’s very unfortunate because (bias judging) does affect the team, so we weren’t pleased with that,” Salim-Beasley said. “Of course, the team doesn’t let that affect the way that they’re thinking when they’re competing, but it surely isn’t helpful with the final result.”

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

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