PISCATAWAY, N.J. (May 7, 2014) - Rutgers gymnastics rewrote the record books in 2014 with a litany of accomplishments, highlighted by the team’s appearance at NCAA Regionals. The Scarlet Knights registered six of the top 10 scores in program history, four of which were set on the road. The program-best team total came March 8 at 196.225.
The consistency of high marks led to a program-high regional qualifying score of 195.340 to send the team to NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2007 and first time under the current top-36 format. RU reached its highest national ranking of No. 16, knocking off three ranked teams in head-to-head competition throughout the year.
In addition to top marks, the team brought in a number of individual accolades. Third-year head coach Louis Levine was named East Atlantic Gymnastic League (EAGL) Head Coach of the Year, as well as the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women (NACGC/W) Northeast Region Head Coach of the Year. Assistant Umme Salim-Beasley was selected as EAGL Assistant Coach of the Year.
RU had 12 gymnasts named to the All-EAGL Scholastic Team showing the team’s strength in the classroom. Rutgers also brought in seven weekly honors on the season, with at least two in each of the three categories. Six Scarlet Knights earned All-EAGL honors across each of the four events. Senior Alexis Gunzelman (Tabernacle, N.J.) led the count with First Team All-EAGL honors in all four events and the all-around.
Redshirt junior Luisa Leal (Cali, Colombia) also earned multiple honors, including First Team All-Vault and Second Team All-Uneven Bars. Junior Emma Hoffman (Union, N.J.) picked up First Team All-Bars, while sophomore Jenna Williams (Bordentown, N.J.) earned a spot on the Second Team for balance beam.
Gunzelman concluded a memorable collegiate career leading the Scarlet Knights all-around. Consistency was the key as the season progressed, which paid off on Senior Day for Gunzelman. The senior registered a career-best all-around score of 39.400 in the meet, highlighted by personal-bests on vault (9.825), floor (9.900) and beam (9.875).
The Tabernacle, New Jersey, native earned EAGL Team MVP for the third time, having also notched the honor in her freshman and sophomore years. Gunzelman capped off her remarkable career by qualifying for the NCAA Nationals as the first individual all-arounder in school history. She became only the second Scarlet Knight to reach the level, joining Courtney Turner who qualified for floor exercise in 2002.
Steered by this senior leadership, the rookies emphasized the team’s depth. In the first week of competition, freshman April Baker (Andover, Mass.) notched Rookie of the Week honors after posting a 9.825 on vault, 9.675 on beam and a 9.825 on floor. Classmate Claire Jones (Gaffney, S.C.) picked up Rookie of the Week for two consecutive weeks. The first came after a 9.875 showing on beam, followed by a career-high 9.900 on floor the week after. Jones earned a spot on the All-EAGL Beam Second Team at the conclusion of the year. Freshman Charly Santagado (Celebration, Fla.) joined her classmate with a Second Team honor of her own on bars.
The Scarlet Knights started the season off strong recording the highest opening-day score of 195.075 against the New Hampshire. From that point on, no record was safe from this squad.
The team went straight into a two-road meet weekend, with its first stop at No. 21 Kent State. Rutgers came out on top after strong performances in each event, including the third-best bars score (49.025) in program-history. Due to an injury, the fate of the meet was left in the hands of redshirt senior captain Jenna Zito (Rockaway, N.J.). She answered the pressure unnerved, stepping into the beam lineup as the final competitor and sealing the victory for the Scarlet Knights.
Two days later Rutgers defeated No. 19 Ohio State, 195.275 to 194.775. It marked the third-straight meet the team had posted over a 195 and the first win over a Big Ten opponent, a future conference foe. The early success of these first three meets propelled the team to new heights.
On March 8, Rutgers sent its seniors off with a record-shattering performance, posting the program-best 196.225 in front of a sold-out crowd on Senior Day. The energy of the gym kept the squad going all the way up to floor exercise, where the squad registered a program-high 49.325 in the event. Following the memorable meet, Gunzelman, Zito, Alexandria Ivol (Woolwich Twp., N.J.) and Alyssa Straub (Nazereth, Pa.) were honored for their valuable contributions to the program.
The Scarlet Knights concluded their final season in the EAGL, tying for third (195.275) with NC State at the Championships in New Hampshire. It marked the best conference finish in school history. The season did not end there as the squad earned a spot at the NCAA Regionals in Athens, Georgia.
At Regionals, the team went up against host No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Michigan, No. 18 Central Michigan, No. 22 Ohio State and No. 28 NC State. The team earned a sixth-place finish in its historic appearance, led by Gunzelman with a 39.175 all-around score. Her mark finished tied for second, pushing her to the next level of competition.
Gunzelman wrapped up the momentous season representing the Scarlet Knights in all-around finals at the NCAA Nationals in Birmingham, Alabama.
The team has taken tremendous steps forward this season and the bar has been raised high for future success. With solid leadership from the coaching staff and a talent rich roster, the Scarlet Knights are set for a powerful entrance into Big Ten competition.