KENT, Ohio (Jan. 17, 2014) – Competing on the road for the first time this season, No. 16 Rutgers gymnastics recorded a 195.250 – fourth-best in school history – to win a quad meet at No. 21 Kent State (194.475) with George Washington (193.400) and Eastern Michigan (192.750). Six of the top eight team scores in the program record books have been recorded since Feb. 2, 2013.
The Scarlet Knights (4-0, 2-0 EAGL) started the meet with 48.800 on both floor exercise and vault, before notching a 49.025 on uneven bars, the third-best mark in school history in the event. RU picked up a 48.625 on balance beam to clinch a team score over 195.000 for the second-straight week to start the season.
“I thought tonight was a really complete meet,” third-year head coach Louis Levine said. “There definitely were improvements from the first meet on every event. It was also good to see us respond to being in a road meet for the first time this season, handling adversity through the meet. The team rocked.”
Both redshirt junior Luisa Leal (Cali, Colombia) (first) and senior Alexis Gunzelman (Tabernacle, N.J.) (third) competed all-around once again, scoring a 39.125 and 38.700, respectively, as six gymnasts in the meet saw action on all four events. It was the second year in-a-row RU competed at Kent State, improving from a 193.700 score last season.
Being in a quad meet for the first time this year, Rutgers started on floor exercise. Both Gunzelman and Leal led the way with a 9.8, while freshmen Claire Jones (Gaffney, S.C.) (9.775) and Charly Santagado (Celebration, Fla.) (9.725) both improved their routines from last week. Sophomore Katie Stebick (Waterford, Pa.) totaled a 9.700 to round out the event.
Rutgers matched its score of 48.800 from the opening meet, as Leal tied for first out of 24 meet competitors with a 9.900. The reigning East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) Rookie of the Week, April Baker (Andover, Mass.), improved her score to 9.850, with sophomore Nicolette Wilson (Toms River, N.J.) (9.725) and junior Sara Skammer (Dallas, Pa.) (9.700) showing consistency in the rotation.
The Scarlet Knights next came alive on uneven bars to take control of the quad meet, as the five counted scores were in the top nine of the event. Gunzelman paced RU with a 9.850 to finish second and Leal closely followed at 9.825 to tie for third. Santagado showed big improvement to step up to a 9.800, with juniors Tasia Halbig (Schwenksville, Pa.) and Emma Hoffman (Union, N.J.) both notching a 9.775 to solidify a record-book performance. It was only the third time ever RU went over 49.000 on uneven bars.
“Everyone really stepped up on bars tonight,” Levine said. “I am proud of the score we put up, knowing we have the potential to keep rising on this event.”
Wrapping up the meet on balance beam, Gunzelman tied the meet-high with a 9.800 to top the leaderboard, with Jones raising her season-high up to a 9.775. Due to an injury in the meet, redshirt senior captain Jenna Zito (Rockaway, N.J.) stepped into the lineup as a final competitor, responding to the pressure with a 9.750 to secure the meet victory.
“Jenna really displayed her leadership and experience tonight, showing why she is a captain,” Levine said.
The Scarlet Knights will next bus over to Columbus, Ohio, to take compete head-to-head with future conference-mate Ohio State Sunday at 2 p.m. RU has not been to OSU since 1998.
“We will keep it relaxed tomorrow and get ready to come back again Sunday,” Levine said. “The team is in a good place right now. Sunday will be a good chance for us to see where we are compared to a Big Ten team. We will take the same approach and continue to do what we have been doing.”