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Rutgers Gymnastics hosts #5 Nebraska Saturday at 1pm

Scarlet Knights look to build on a solid performance last week.

FloSports: FloGymnastics Big Ten Championships Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

The first Rutgers home gymnastics meet of the 2019 season takes place today at 1:00 pm against #5 Nebraska (ranked #15 in other poll) at the Livingston Gym. Free admission and parking to all home gymnastics meets this season (and some other sports) through “R Dollar, Your Game”.

Last week

The Rutgers Gymnastics team showed significant improvement in their second meet of the season last week at Bridgeport. The Team score improved more than 3 points from opener. Kaitlyn Hall (vault) and Belle Huang (balance beam) each took first place in one of their events.

From the Coach

I spoke with Head Coach Umme Salim-Beasley earlier this week who explained to me that unlike some other coaching staffs, Rutgers employs a pure meritocracy, no “guesswork” to determine who is in the lineup that week. “It’s all based on their routine hit percentages that week. Our top seven gymnasts either compete or exhibition how their practice goes that week.” She continued, “we give them daily percentages after each workout so they know where they stand on our rankings board and by the end of the week we compile all the practice days to determine who is eligible to compete.” For example, Mia Betancourt was sick last week so she only got percentages in vault unlike the season opening week when she participated in three events.

Speaking of, this Saturday Rutgers will begin on the vault, customary for the home team in college gymnastics. Coach Salim-Beasley said the team’s success so far on the vault did not surprise the new coaching staff. “We’re not [surprised]. We changed vaults around for a couple of them and they seem to be more confident.” “The power in the vault lineup is something we noticed quite early” and the “event the team has the most confidence in right now.”

The staff is still working on upgrades in some events for later this year. Particularly on vault and uneven bars, expect gymnasts to not have certain expected deductions for skills they have not yet showcased thus far in 2019 competition. For example, “we have a few gymnasts who are working on upgraded vaults but they are not quite ready yet. They are still building confidence.”

More reasons for optimism as the season progresses are that Salim-Beasley and her staff have placed more value on preserving health. Early-season standout Hall missed a lot of time in 2018, but her modified routines to put less stress on an injured knee has allowed her to compete consistently in three events so far in 2019. Another tactic has been to set a goal for each gymnast in a given practice and if she reaches that score, she’s done to reduce the chances of creating “additional damage”.

The early returns are favorable for other team members as well, “The majority of gymnasts are practicing in at least three events.” “Some of the gymnasts that weren’t practicing and competing in events last year, we brought them back to those events and got them started again.” “We have the flexibility in our lineups now that are two or three additional gymnasts deep that we could swap in and out of the lineups because they are ready to compete.”

Thanks again to Coach for taking the time this week.

Opponent

Nebraska returns to Piscataway for the first time since finishing 4th at the Big Ten Championships hosted by RU in 2017. The Cornhuskers improved their standing to a 3rd place Big Ten championships finish in 2018 and have climbed up to #5 in this week’s national poll (trailing only #3 Penn State in the Big Ten). They fell in their season opening meet at #1 UCLA despite a 195.700 team score. Sienna Crouse, Taylor Houchin, and Megan Schweihofer all tallied 39+ in the all-around, but placed behind former Olympian Kyla Ross of UCLA who registered a “perfect 10” both on vault AND on the floor exercise.

Last week Nebraska notched their first win with a home triumph over the Washington Huskies by a score of 195.550-195.250. Crouse led the way with a 39.200 in the all-around as 2018 First Team all Big Ten Schweihofer only participated in the balance beam.

The Huskers have one New Jersey native on their squad, freshman Kaylee Quinn, a Level 10 gymnast out of North Star Gymnastics in Boonton. Quinn tallied a 9.750 on her first career vault and matched it last week in her second.

Gymnastics for beginners

In a dual meet, action alternates between events with one routine on display. RU as the home team begins on vault before moving to uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. The visitors therefore perform uneven bars, vault, floor exercise and balance beam.

As a bonus this week, in your free internet browsing time, check out the videos provided to judges as examples of how to score routines during the 2019 season.

Good luck RU!

Next up

The women travel to Iowa City, Iowa for a date with the Hawkeyes Saturday January 26 at 5pm.