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#5 Nebraska edges Rutgers Gymnastics by half a point

Streak of six consecutive career-bests and exciting finish highlight event on Livingston.

FloSports: FloGymnastics GymQuarters Invitational College Meet
Nebraska won it on beam, barely.
Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

It got wild at Livingston Gym on Saturday afternoon. The Rutgers Gymnastics team had their third meet of the season, first at home, hosting the #5/#15 Nebraska Cornhuskers. Coming into the meet, it seemed like a huge mismatch with the Huskers averaging a 195.625 as a team to Rutgers’s 191.488 through two weeks of the season. Fans got more than they bargained for (literally), as the meet came to down to the final two gymnasts for Nebraska. Here’s how it went down.


Rutgers started the evening in the vault with the same six competitors as last week. These six gymnasts have been strong on meet day and continued in practice the past week. The order of the athletes did not change as Mia Betancourt started things off with a 9.725. Michelle Amoresano, “Meeshie” to her teammates, followed with a 9.700 herself. Belle Huang delivered a 9.8 for her efforts. Toni Williams added a 9.625, needing a small step forward on her landing. Riahanah Ali received a 9.55 next and unfortunately Kaitlyn Hall could not keep her footing either with a 9.45.

If this were the Big Ten Championships, Hall may have been willing to put more pressure on the knee she still wears a brace on. Coach Salim-Beasley mentioned this week when we spoke that reducing wear and tear is a priority for the staff.

Coach Rosso had to be pleased again. It looked like the team was super pumped up for the first event of the first home meet which led to so much speed on the runway that landings were harder to stick. Jenna Rizkalla turned in a 9.7 in her exhibition vault and if she can stick the landing with consistency, the rest of the team is going to need to watch her nipping at their heels for more scoring opportunities. In the social media era, you can re-watch all the vaults on the Rutgers gymnastics twitter feed.

Uneven Bars

Rutgers showed significant improvement in Week 2 over Week 1 and this group remained the same after maintaining their standing in practice earlier in the week. And just like last week, Abigail Karolewski led things off with a 9.55. Ali in the two spot improved on her effort in Bridgeport with a 9.75. Huang for the third week in a row did not reach her potential in the event in the meet. Amoresano stuck a landing, earning the jersey similar to the one Isaih Pacheco wears on the gridiron except it says “Stick Queen”. “Meeshie” received a 9.8, just 0.025 below her career high in the event. Hall (9.725), and Shannon Farrell (9.725) boosted their numbers from a week ago as well.

Coach Salim-Beasley’s will be happy to have seen continued progress on the bars. Again, Huang’s performances will stabilize and Emma Karas did an exhibition for the second week in a row, this time turning in a 9.75. Had it counted on the scoreboard, the total would have registered as Emma’s career high on the bars, courtesy of the full twisting double back she stuck. There is plenty of optimism on this apparatus because as also mentioned this week, some gymnasts are working on even higher potential scoring routines in practice that could be used later in the season.

Balance Beam

The Scarlet Knights were able to regroup in Bridgeport and hoped to do the same this week on the balance beam. Hall slogged through a routine that was not her best, but Betancourt recovered from illness a week ago picked the team up with a 9.600. Emily Drauss, “Milly”, surprised this week and saw her first career action with a 9.050. Amoresano kept up her strong day with a 9.725, matching her career high on the beam. Freshman Kiera Doherty-Herwitz also achieved her career-high with a 9.700, earning the jersey also.

Not to be outdone, once again Huang would rebound nicely, tying her career-high with a 9.85. She continues to show resiliency that should remain contagious.

Jenna Rizkalla fell last week, but rebounded with a 9.725 in her exhibition. Had it counted on the scoresheet would have been a career high for “Riz”, too. Assistant coach Anastasia Halbig may be disappointed that the aggregate score dipped slightly from last week, but that is likely offset by four straight career highs to finish the event strong.

Floor Exercise

The Scarlet Knights closed the day on the floor exercise. Mia Betancourt shined in her return to the lineup with a career-high 9.725. “Meeshie” kept her strong day going, tying her career high with a 9.8. Williams scored a 9.775, just 0.025 off her career high, ending the streak at six consecutive career highs set or matched by RU gymnasts. Rizkalla also put up an impressive 9.875, just 0.025 off her career high also. Ali known as “Ray” exploded for a 9.925 setting a new career high. Huang matched that with a career high of her own, also registering a 9.925.

Wow, the team destroyed their pervious high total in the event this season with an overall improvement of three quarters of a point. Even Abigail Karolewski in her exhibition tallied a 9.65 for her efforts. The staff can be nothing other than ecstatic with what went down over the course of the final rotation as pressure on Nebraska continued to mount.

Unfortunately Nebraska superstar Taylor Houchin got a 9.85 on her beam routine to win it for the Huskers in an exciting finish. If she hadn’t, all the paint from the ceiling surely would have been fell like confetti like it used to in the Barn on College Avenue.

The Skinny

Wow. For all the praise basketball coach Steve Pikiell gets for beating two ranked teams in three years, Coach Salim-Beasley and her squad almost toppled a giant in just her THIRD MEET at the helm. It truly came down to the bitter end with Rutgers finishing so strong on the floor exercise. Everyone who has participated in high level sports thinks back to “what if” scenarios. In every gymnastics meet, every athlete has a few of those, but the simple fact is had Jenna Rizkalla’s beam routine been part of the team score, they win the meet.

There were several stars including Huang and Amoresano who both did the all-around. Amoresano went for career highs in floor exercise and on balance beam for her career high all-around score as well. Huang had career highs on the same two events, tallying her best al-around of the season. Ali’s floor routine was a thing of beauty as well. The confidence Coach speaks about surely showed itself on Saturday.

This team is definitely headed in the right direction in very exciting fashion. We are definitely “enjoying the build.”


Next Saturday January 26, Rutgers is at Iowa to face the Hawkeyes.