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RU Olympic Sports: Winter turns to spring

Snow on the first day of spring. Climate change? Nah, just livin' 'round here. And the seasons changing means the sports are, too.

Rutgers University

We'll start with those sports that are closing out their seasons.

Gymnastics

Freshman Elizabeth Groden, senior Luisa Leal and junior Jenna Williams will all represent Rutgers gymnastics at NCAA Regionals. The trio will compete at the Morgantown Regional at West Virginia University on April 4 at 4 p.m.

"These selections are a testament to the strong seasons they've had," head coach Louis Levine said. "They have put in a lot of hard work in the gym and I'm glad to see them continue on at NCAAs."

Groden qualified as an all-arounder following her first season competing at the collegiate level. The rookie participated in all four events for the Scarlet Knights in the last seven meets. She totaled a season-best mark of 38.900 Feb. 20 and recorded a high on vault at 9.825, uneven bars at 9.800, balance beam at 9.800 and floor exercise at 9.875.

Leal is set for her fourth career trip to NCAAs, qualifying on vault. She carried a 9.845 regional qualifying score (RQS) in the event this season, reaching a high of 9.990 Feb. 27. The veteran holds the school record on vault with a 9.925, producing a 9.800 last year on the apparatus at Regionals.

Williams will make her third NCAA Regionals appearance in as many seasons. The junior is set to compete on uneven bars after accumulating a 9.850 RQS in 12 meets. She had a high of 9.875 achieved twice this year and holds a career-best mark of 9.900.

Big Ten Gymnastics Championships

Michigan earned the 2015 Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Championships title, securing its 21st overall and second consecutive title. The Wolverines tallied 197.825 points en route to the team title, followed by Illinois in second place with 197.350. Nebraska finished in third with 196.875 points, Penn State placed fourth with 196.725 and Iowa rounded out the top five with 196.500 points.

Eighteen student-athletes were named to the All-Championships Team in recognition for their performances at the championships. No Scarlet Knights were named.

Big Ten Individual Awards

Big Ten Gymnast of the Year: Lindsay Mable, Minnesota

Big Ten Co-Freshmen of the Year: Brianna Brown, Michigan; Briannah Tsang, Penn State

Big Ten Coach of the Year: Bev Plocki, Michigan

Sportsmanship Award Honorees

Emma Hoffman, Rutgers

Swimming & Diving

Senior swimmer Greta Leberfinger and freshman diver Addison Walkowiak concluded their appearance at the 2015 NCAA Division I Women's Swimming and Diving Championship on Saturday at the Greensboro Aquatic Center.

Capping off a stellar career "On the Banks," Leberfinger represented Rutgers in the 200 breaststroke on the final day of competition. The senior registered a time of 2.11.58 to finish 33rd in the national field. Leberfinger also took part in the 100 breaststroke on Friday morning, hitting the wall at the 1:01.11 mark in the prelims.

Walkowiak competed in her second event of the championship as well, posting a score of 208.95 in the platform dive preliminaries. The rookie kicked off the meet in the 1-meter dive on Thursday, registering a mark of 243.55 in the event.

Track & Field - Men

The Rutgers men's track and field team opened up the 2015 outdoor season with Joseph Velez setting a new RU record in the hammer throw as well as two-time conference champion, Thomas Carr taking first in the javelin and Zachary Ghizzone atop the 110m hurdle results at the USF Bulls Invitational.

"It was a good meet for us. It was a great start to our outdoor season with a new school record and many personal bests for our student athletes," said head coach Mike Mulqueen.

Velez took first in the hammer at a distance of 63.65m (208' 10"), not only a new Rutgers benchmark, but a throw that is currently fourth nationally and tops in the Big Ten. Velez bests Marc Wallace's mark of 194' 9" set at the Big East Championships in 2002.

In javelin, the Scarlet Knights placed first, second, third and fifth. Carr won the event with a throw of 67.08m (220' 01"), which is currently second nationally, while runner-up Matthew Krezmer threw for 66.16m (217' 01") for a new PR. Krezmer, who puts his name sixth in the nation with his results, resets his previous best of 63.95m set at last year's Bulls Invite. Josh Suttmeier took third at 62.58m (205' 04") with Christopher Mirabelli reaching 60.63m (198' 11").

Ghizzone meanwhile took home first in the 100m hurdles clocking in at 15.02.

The Scarlet Knights were also runner-ups in five other events, which included Rajee Dunbar setting a new PR in the 100m with a second place time of 10.73.

Track & Field - Women

The Rutgers women's track and field team opened up the 2015 outdoor season with Stacey Anning taking home the javelin title, Bryanna Grant winning the triple jump and Bria Saunders earning ECAC qualifying times in the 100m and 200m this weekend at the USF Bulls Invitational.

Anning made her Scarlet Knight debut by throwing for 41.81m (137' 02") in her first place performance in the javelin and posting an ECAC qualifying mark. Teammate Kelsey McDonald finished in second in reaching 40.32m (132' 03").   Grant placed first in the triple jump at a distance of 12.03m (39' 5 ¾").

Saunders, meanwhile, was the runner-up in the 200m in a time of 23.91 and placed third in the 100m with a finish in 11.77.

Upcoming Schedule for both Men and Women

Raleigh Relays

3/27-28/15

Raleigh Relays

Raleigh, N.C.

All Day

Tennis

The Rutgers women's tennis team was edged by Penn State, 6-1, on Sunday afternoon at the East Brunswick Racquet Club.

"Although we lost, the team fought Penn State from start to finish," said head coach Ben Bucca. "Congratulations to Gina Li for a very impressive win at the No. 1 singles. Despite today's loss, the team is rising to the challenge of a demanding Big Ten schedule as we are improving with each match."

RU drops to an overall record of 6-8 and a Big Ten record of 0-5. PSU moves to 6-9 overall and a record of 3-2 in conference action.

In singles action, Li withstood a challenging match at the No. 1 singles spot. After grabbing a 6-4 win in the first set, the junior was edged 7-5 in the next. In the tie breaking round, Li dominated Katia Balik with a 10-4 victory to claim the matchup.

Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Week

Alex Najarian, Michigan, Fr. – Birmingham, Mich.

· Went 4-0 over the weekend, helping Michigan post wins over Minnesota (7-0) and Wisconsin (6-1)

Results and upcoming schedule

3/22/15

vs. Penn State *

Piscataway, N.J.

L, 6-1

3/27/15

vs. Minnesota *

Piscataway, N.J.

12:00 p.m. ET

3/29/15

vs. Wisconsin *

Piscataway, N.J.

12:00 p.m. ET