The Rutgers Gymnastics team began their season in Cancun with a big quad meet test against Michigan, West Virginia, and Iowa State. The “Umme era” began (or continued depending on how you look at it) with a strong start to the first meet of 2019 and a strong finish to bookend a tumultuous two middle rotations.
The team performed significantly better Saturday as the season continued in Bridgeport against three teams from the Constitution State. RU began on the uneven bars.
Here we go Rutgers fans‼️ First event touch is underway ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/8E2H5EC0N0— Rutgers Gymnastics (@RUGymnastics) January 12, 2019
Rutgers needed a bounce back on bars in a big way. As they had last week, true freshman Abigail Karolewski led things off. She scored a respectable 9.55, not quite as good as in Cancun. Coach Salim-Beasley made one substitution to the lineup, inserting Riahana Ali who went second, tallying the same mark as Karolewski. Then last season’s most consistent performer, Belle Huang struggled yet again. Michelle Amoresano (9.45), Kaitlyn Hall (9.625), and Shannon Farrell (9.675) all contributed to the team finishing with two full more points than a week ago.
Coach Salim-Beasley’s will be happy to see the bounce back, particularly in the event she focuses on. Huang’s performances will stabilize for sure and Rutgers can feel confident that they should have five solid scores per week in the event. Emma Karas did an exhibition too. If she can improve on her numbers from 2018, Rutgers’s baseline in the event should be serviceable enough if they can excel in other areas.
B-E-A-M LET’S GO BEAM WOOOH‼️ pic.twitter.com/ExQWgA27Ey— Rutgers Gymnastics (@RUGymnastics) January 12, 2019
The Scarlet Knights were happy to try and get the second monkey off their backs after rotating to balance beam where they had four falls a week ago. Kaitlyn Hall led things off with a 9.600, a slight tick below last week. Then despite a strong performance last week, true freshman Mia Betancourt was removed from the lineup in favor of fellow freshman Sage Littlejohn. Littlejohn tallied the exact same as Betancourt last week, a 9.675. Another freshman, Kiera Doherty-Herwitz scored the same, a significant boost from her number last week.
Another substitution took place in the 4th spot as Amoresano replaced Ali this week, recording a 9.600. Jenna Rizkalla really pushed it knowing the team was in much better position than last week, but fell. She regained composure with her dismount though. Huang finished the rotation with a solid 9.825 to win the individual event, propelling the team to a 48.375, way up from last week.
Assistant coach Anastasia Halbig was able to breathe a sigh of relief. The team rebounded nicely, though still has room for growth in the event. Once again Shannon Farrell and Erin McLachlan did not compete, so Halbig and Salim-Beasley may do more tinkering over the next few meets.
The Scarlet Knights took their third rotation on the floor exercise. Toni Williams moved into the leadoff spot with a 9.6 followed by Sophia Atienza who struggled mightily. Amoresano was added the lineup in place of Mia Betancourt, and got a 9.5 for her efforts. Rizkalla was able to have a short memory and posted an impressive 9.725. Riahanah Ali improved her score from a week ago with a 9.750 and Huang anchored the group with the same.
Coach Rosso’s selections did not equal what they did in the first meet, but there was not a major drop off. The last four gymnasts all had the pressure on after Atienza, normally a solid performer, struggled. The team should expect better in the event, but it was not a disaster by any means.
Run, hit, flip, STICK LET’S GO VAULT‼️ pic.twitter.com/RjPNmSTOVt— Rutgers Gymnastics (@RUGymnastics) January 12, 2019
Rutgers finished the evening in the vault hoping to maintain last week’s surprising success with the exact same lineup. Betancourt improved her score to a 9.750 having focused exclusively in the event this week. Amoresano (9.725) and Huang (9.750) also bested their season opening marks. Toni Williams couldn’t match her 9.8, but still got a 9.750 while Riahanah Ali dipped to a 9.625. Kaitlyn Hall put the cherry on top of another strong showing with a career best 9.800! That was enough to secure an individual first place in the meet for Hall.
Credit to Coach Rosso for helping avoid a letdown with the same lineup. The 48.775 as a team was their best event for the second week in a row. Specialist Sophia Atienza was not in the official lineup again as Chloe DeVries saw her first action since 2017 in an exhibition. It’s possible that we see even higher scores moving forward.
The meet was not televised but thanks to twitter, fans could follow the score of each performance in near real-time. As a result, it’s difficult to comment on how individual routines looked, energy in the building, etc. All that said, Rutgers was able to record five passable scores in each event, boosting the team total to 193.175, just behind Bridgeport who finished in second place on their home turf. It was significant improvement on the scoresheet at the bare minimum.
At the individual level, Huang and Amoresano both did the all-around. Amoresano did not compete on floor at all in 2018, and did not post an impressive score in her first 2019 action. It appears from the outside that the senior captain has been a good solider and having a career high of 9.800 in the event deserved at least a chance to compete in an all-around this season. She might get another chance but with Betancourt waiting in the wings, Amoresano or Atienza may have to be excellent to keep a spot. Huang turned in a solid 9.750 or higher in three events including her victory on the beam after falling last week, struggling again on bars though. Bars was her worst event in average and high scores last year, but there is not much depth in that event so she was forced into the lineup out of necessity. Coach Salim-Beasley is an expert in the event so expect someone to emerge as a specialist like Rachel Ley or Chloe DeVries even if she has not excelled thus far in her collegiate career in the event.
Rutgers is farther along than they were a year ago at this juncture and has surprised on vault. They have a huge test next week against #8 Nebraska but the new coaching staff seems to have identified a lineup that can perform at a solid baseline level. Salim-Beasley and co. can now focus on helping their athletes nail the details of each routine.
Gymnastics for beginners
In women’s NCAA gymnastics, the top mark is a 10.0. If a gymnast meets certain minimum requirements, her routine will start from 10.0 and the judges will deduct missteps to determine the final score.
The first home meet of the season takes place on January 19 against Nebraska at the Livingston Recreation Center. Save time by registering for parking in advance.