Rutgers records second-highest team score of season with 195 at Kent State

For its first set of back-to-back competitions this season, the Rutgers gymnastics team showed zero signs of faltering from one meet to the next. 

The Scarlet Knights tallied their highest team score since their 196.050 win against Penn State with a 195.175 at Kent State on Sunday afternoon for second place. Ball State posted a 195.325 for the win.

Rutgers first hosted its senior night at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) on Friday evening against Bridgeport, Centenary and Towson. Less than 48 hours later, the Knights traveled to Ohio to compete in another quad against the host the Golden Flashes, the Cardinals and North Carolina.

Many tears were held back when Rutgers finished up its routines on Friday to post a 194.425 to win the meet. 

The seniors weren’t just recognized at their last home meet of their collegiate careers, but their performances were a testament to all the work they’ve put in over the past four years.

Senior Riahanah Ali captured event wins on floor (9.900) and a shared win on vault (9.850) alongside fellow classmate senior Jenna Rizkalla. Junior Shannon Farrell also secured a title of her own on bars with a career-high 9.925.

“The team did amazing today,” Ali said about the teams performance on Friday. “We fought really hard. We stayed in our bubble. We were just super ready for this meet. There were a lot of emotions. I'm just thankful for this team and for this night completely.”

The senior sweep on vault saw not just Rizkalla and Ali on top of the leaderboard, but senior Michelle Amoresano in third with a 9.800. Also atop the board was sophomore Belle Huang with a 9.750 in fifth.

On bars, all-arounders Huang and Amoresano were side by side in the rankings with a 9.800 to share fourth place.

The Knights have struggled on beam all season and senior night was no exception. Freshman Mia Betancourt, Amoresano and Huang led Rutgers with a 9.650 — all for seventh place. Hopefully, the Knights will be able to fine tune their skills and transitions in time for Big Tens.

Closing out the night on floor, Ali’s 9.900 was met with Huang’s 9.875 for second. Rizkalla also tumbled to her final routine in New Jersey with a 9.850 for third.

After a video tribute and emotional walkout for the seniors, Rutgers rested up for its competition on Sunday.

“Double weekends are always tricky,” said head coach Umme Salim-Beasley. “They are a little tired. We're going to focus on this meet being a new meet. The score potential will be high there. I think they'll be able to see that and I think that they want to be able to finish off really strong.”

Salim-Beasley was right.

At Kent State, the Knights added major points on floor with an event score of 49.100, which is the highest event score on the road this season.

Floor was a high-scoring event among all teams with Tar Heel Khazia Hislop taking the top spot (9.950). Huang put together a 9.900 in a four-way tie for third, followed by the trio of Amoresano (9.850), Ali (9.825) and Rizkalla (9.800).

Continuing her strong performance on vault, Rizkalla stuck her third consecutive vault to claim a spot on top of the leaderboard with another 9.850 in two days.

This time around, Amoresano took the lead on bars with 9.825 for first. Coming in right behind was freshman Abigail Karolewski, who raised her previous career high of 9.700 to a 9.800 for fourth. Farrell wasn’t able to post a similar score from the night before, dipping to fifth with a 9.775.

Beam became a different story for Rutgers at Kent State. Junior Kaitlyn Hall’s 9.825 and freshman Kiera Doherty-Herwitz’s 9.800 were the Knights' top scorers.

With one more competition against Cornell next weekend, Rutgers is ready to take on Big Ten competition in the next two weeks.

“I wanted to help turn this team around and really get us moving in the right direction to be one of the top teams in the Big Ten,” Rizkalla said. “Being able to change those attitudes and help my teammates believe in themselves is so rewarding. We are a team with the ability to beat the top schools in the nation."

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

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