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Rutgers heads to University Park, Pa. for meet with Penn State

From hardships to highlights, the Rutgers gymnastics team is still fighting strong in the early half of its season. The Scarlet Knights (1-1, 1-1) will go up against Penn State in University Park, Pennsylvania at 7 p.m. on Friday.

When Rutgers was last out on the mat, sophomore Mia Betancourt suffered an injury that sent the Knights into a frenzy. With one more event to go, it seemed like Rutgers was having its best meet. The Knights posted their second highest beam score for the program, led by senior Erin McLachlan’s stellar 9.950 routine that set a new school record in the event.

Continuing off of its beam energy, Rutgers will look to do the same again when competing against the Nittany Lions (2-4, 1-1). Compared to last season, Penn State isn’t the same team and has been inconsistent since the start of the new year. 

The Knights have faced the Nittany Lions in one dual meet since joining the Big Ten. Running away with the win, Rutgers posted its second highest program score of 196.050 while defeating its first nationally ranked team in front of a home crowd. 

This time around, the Knights will be away from their Jersey home, but are looking to carry their state’s energy through the competition. Rutgers has a record of performing B1G while at home, but it’s a different story when the Knights are on the road.

Little Things. B1G Difference.

Rutgers needs to be more consistent in all of its performances across all of its events. 

On vault, the Knights have held average scores, though nothing makes the event stand out for them. At the beginning of the season, Rutgers were struggling to stick its landings, but have progressively gotten better at finishing the job in “Stick Queen” fashion. The Knights have a lot of power and are continuing to learn how to harness that power for higher scores.

Bars is one of Rutgers’ stronger events. While anyone in the lineup could slip up, it doesn’t shake the Knights as much, as they complete their routines just the same as if nobody had made an error. Over the weekend, junior Belle Huang posted her lowest bar scores of the season, but that didn’t deter the lineup to stay on top of its season-high scores while on the road.

Rutgers showed over the weekend how much it needs to work on floor. The Knights recorded event scores of 47.475 and 47.650 at Michigan and Penn, respectively, which were their lowest scores of any event. 

Betancourt’s injury facing the Quakers made the lineup hesitant to compete in the same aggressive fashion that they’re used to, with multiple people stepping out of bonds during their routines. Similar mistakes were made on the mat facing the Wolverines, costing Rutgers valuable points and leading it to total its lowest team score of the season.

The Knights speak plenty about staying within their own bubble to avoid the distractions of other teams, but what happens when something goes wrong in their own lineup? Rutgers must cope with adversity by rising to the challenge.

Luckily, beam is the Knights’ strongest event and doesn’t need as much attention as the other events. Then again, beam is one of the most mentally and technically challenging events and should be continuously worked on to maintain the level of consistency Rutgers’ strives for.

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

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