PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Jan. 11, 2014) – Rutgers gymnastics started the 2014 season by posting its highest-ever opening day team score in program history, defeating New Hampshire 195.075-191.750 Saturday at the Livingston Recreation Center. It was the fifth-highest overall team score in school history.
“It was pretty important to begin with a high score,” third-year head coach Louis Levine said. “We talked all fall about starting fast and today was a big score for the beginning of the season. It was also nice to defeat a conference foe. Everybody competed hard and had a good time – that’s what we are striving for every meet.”
Both redshirt junior Luisa Leal (Cali, Colombia) and senior Alexis Gunzelman (Tabernacle, N.J.) competed all-around, scoring a 39.225 and 38.975, respectively. A different Scarlet Knight took first in each of the four events, as it was the 14th-straight year RU and UNH met to open the season.
Starting on vault, freshman April Baker (Andover, Mass.) scored a 9.825 in her career debut to tie Leal for first place. Freshman Claire Jones (Gaffney, S.C.) also impressed in her first collegiate meet with a 9.750, while junior Sara Skammer (Dallas, Pa.) tied her career best with a 9.725. The team totaled a 48.800.
On the uneven bars, junior Emma Hoffman (Union, N.J.) recorded a career-high 9.800 to lead the way, while Gunzelman and Leal both posted a 9.775 to give RU the top three finishers in the event. The team earned a 48.600 team score.
The Scarlet Knights also paced the meet on the balance beam by putting up a 48.725. Gunzelman placed first with a 9.825 routine, as junior Tasia Halbig (Schwenksville, Pa.) and sophomore Jenna Williams (Bordentown, N.J.) both scored a 9.750.
Finishing up the meet on the floor exercise, all six RU performers scored over a 9.700 to total a 48.950 score, the best of the four events for the Scarlet Knights. Leal impressed the judges to earn a meet-high 9.900 on her routine, as Baker notched a 9.825 to place second. Following closely behind were Gunzelman (9.775), sophomore Katie Stebick (Waterford, Pa.) (9.750), freshman Charly Santagado (Celebration, Fla.) (9.700) and Skammer (9.700).
“We have a lot of talented kids and the energy was high from the start today,” Levine said. “Today was really big for our confidence too. We now have two really challenging meets coming up next week, but we know scores over 195 are competitive with everyone.”
Rutgers will next hit the road for a pair of meets in Ohio, taking on Kent State as part of a quad meet Friday, Jan. 17 before facing Ohio State Sunday, Jan. 19.