The Rutgers gymnastics team returns 17 letterwinners in 2005, including a group of tri-captains with NCAA regional experience. The combination of depth and experience should prove to be a key asset for head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton and her coaching staff as they look forward to an outstanding season.
The Scarlet Knights top returning gymnasts are senior tri-captain Stephanie Zick, a regional qualifier on uneven bars in 2004, senior tri-captain Sveta Shterenberg, a regional qualifier in 2003 and senior tri-caption Tracy Heckler. These girls will add the additional experience needed to take the team to the next level.
The Scarlet Knights expect to see huge improvements in the vaulting team this season, as they have upgraded their training system. With the new system, Rutgers' gymnasts are able to train the higher level vaults, while placing less wear and tear on their bodies. Last season, the vault was the Scarlet Knights' lowest scoring event but with the advent of the new training system, Chollet-Norton has seen a marked improvement in the level of vaulting. She fully expects several of her athletes performing vaults that are 9.9 and higher.
RU's top performers in this event will once again be Lorena Johnson, Jackie Campbell, Casey Santangelo and Beth Fittery. Back in the line up this season is Erin Lynch, who will be a major player in the vaulting rotation as well as floor exercise. Lynch is making her return after suffering a knee injury during the preseason last year. Newcomers to the line up include Amanda Apadula and Stephanie Pannick. Both of these freshmen will have an immediate impact as they add the additional depth needed in this event.
One of the best events will be the uneven bars. The team returns seven starters from last season's squad. Top performers include Sveta Shterenberg, Stephanie Zick, Marinelle Antonio, Nicci Bradder, Tracy Heckler, Beth Fittery, and Lorena Johnson. Last season, Rutgers was ranked among the top three in the Northeast region. The Scarlet Knights return the entire rotation from last year in tact, thus expectations are very high for a great year. Stephanie Zick was an NCAA Northeast regional qualifier last season with Sveta Shterenberg as the alternate. Newcomers who will also have an impact are Stephanie Pannick and Amanda Apadula. Both were Level 10 regional qualifiers and have the experience to be major contributors on the bars.
With the loss of school record-holder Lisa Abrams, the beam rotation will seek other team members to fill Abrams' shoes. The team returns several strong performers from last season including Sveta Shterenberg,
Nicci Bradder, Marinelle Antonio, Gina Roselle, Casey Santangelo, Lorena Johnson, and Beth Fittery. Last season the team broke the school beam record twice with two different line ups. Newcomers Amanda Apadula and Stephanie Pannick hope to continue the tradition.
The floor exercise team will once again be one of Rutgers' strongest events. Having only lost one senior (Caitlin Wight) from its starting six, the team should continue where it left off at the end of the 2004 season. Returning to the line will be top performer Nicci Bradder, Sveta Shterenberg, Lorena Johnson, Stephanie Zick, Kelly Straka, and Casey Santangelo. Newcomers who will have an impact on the team this season will be Amanda Apadula, Jodi LeBeau, and Stephanie Pannick.
"Our floor team has always been outstanding with great depth and this season should be no different," said Chollet-Norton. "The goal for the team is to break the previous floor record during the 2005 school year."
As usual, Rutgers will play a challenging schedule in 2005. This year's slate includes traditional powers West Virginia, Penn State, University of North Carolina, North Carolina State and University of New Hampshire. The Scarlet Knights will open the season on Sunday, Jan. 9 at the University of New Hampshire, followed by a match up against North Carolina State on Saturday, Jan. 15, before returning home to the Livingston Gymnasium to host James Madison and Cortland State on Saturday, Jan. 22. RU's next two meets are on the road, as it travels to Temple on Wednesday, Jan. 26, and Southern Connecticut State on Friday, Jan. 28. Rutgers is home again on Saturday, Feb. 5, as it takes on Pittsburgh, Brockport State and Brown University. The Scarlet Knights will travel to College Park, MD, to take on the University of Maryland, Temple and Brockport on Friday, Feb. 11, followed by a meet against the University of North Carolina on Saturday, Feb. 19. Rutgers will face defending EAGL champion West Virginia and Bridgeport University on Saturday, Feb. 26, before competing in the final home meet of the season against Cornell, Eastern Michigan and Ursinus College on Saturday, March 5. The Scarlet Knights will conclude the 2005 season with two road meets, taking on Towson, Maryland and Pittsburgh on Saturday, March 12, followed by Penn State and Temple on Saturday, March 19. This year's EAGL Championship will take place in Raleigh, NC, on the campus of North Carolina State, on Friday, March 25.
"As a head coach for this program for the past 19 years I am really excited about the talent, desire and drive we have this season," said Chollet-Norton. "We have the ability and talent to make a huge impact on the NCAA Northeast Region as well as the EAGL Championship."