Rutgers continues strong start to season with solid home-opener performance

The Rutgers gymnastics team is having its best start to the season since 2014, and it doesn’t look like the Scarlet Knights are slowing down anytime soon.

At the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC), Rutgers recorded a combined score of 194.550 to place second at its home opener behind Minnesota’s total score of 196.875 – highlighted by the Gophers' Lexy Ramler posting a perfect 10.000 on beam.

After posting a 9.900 on beam in the Knights’ first competition of the season last weekend, true freshman Hannah Joyner stepped it up once again to tie the school record in the event with a 9.925. Joyner didn’t waver throughout the whole routine and sticking the landing tied a bow to it in spectacular fashion.

The Waldorf, Maryland, native has set the bar extremely high on beam, along with the rest of her events. As one of two all-around gymnasts, next to junior Belle Huang, Joyner was named a Big Ten Gymnast to Watch for the 2020 season. Joyner’s experience competing at the elite level and training with the likes of Olympic and World Champion gymnast Simone Biles has given Joyner the confidence to perform under pressure.

"Being at home for the first time went really well," said head coach Umme Salim-Beasley on "We needed to be able to stay focused and they did a great job with being able to do that. The lineups were able to separate themselves away from the rest of the team and just key in on what they needed to do from start to finish.”

Alongside Joyner, true freshmen Jordyn Duffield and Jenna Ferguson are both making their collegiate debuts on the Banks. Duffield competed on vault, beam and floor, struggling to get rid of the freshman jitters. Taking it one event at a time, Duffield took a tumble on both vault (8.975) and floor (8.975), but was able to put up a strong beam performance (9.725). Ferguson put together a solid routine to be the only freshman starting off the beam lineup with a score of 9.725.

Huang continued her dominance in all-around with a total score of 39.075, posting 9.775 on bars, 9.800 on floor and 9.750 on vault and beam.

What was seemingly Rutgers’ poorest event has now become its secret weapon with the freshmen taking over half of the beam lineup. The newcomers’ routines lack collegiate experience, but they’re able to match the level of the returners. 

Even though beam is now the team's strong suit, the Knights’ stellar floor lineup from last year is one of their weaker events this season. Rutgers’ former seniors provided a consistently high-performing lineup throughout the 2019 season, but it has yet to be matched by the Knights in this year’s competition.

Following each meet, Rutgers will go back to the drawing board in terms of being more technically sound to reduce point deductions. Working on sticking landings is one area that the Knights can improve on to boost their lowest scoring event as well as their energy on the floor. Floor was an event that fans were excited to watch, though that same high-energy environment in the event is waiting to be replicated again. 

"We were really pleased (with the team's performance). It was definitely a step up from last week. There's things that we know we need to improve on still,” Salim-Beasley said. “I think these first few meets are really getting the bugs out, and they're able to see that they're able to keep up with competition. So for them, the confidence is there. They know that they're capable, and they know that they have to go back in, get working and focus on those details."

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

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