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Rutgers Gymnastics downed by Michigan State

Knights struggle on beam in final rotation to come up short in see-saw battle.

FloSports: FloGymnastics Big Ten Championships
The Spartans flew over the Knights today.
Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

The Rutgers Gymnastics team looked to keep the momentum going in East Lansing off a record-setting victory over the #25 Penn State Nittany Lions a week ago. The Scarlet Knights and Michigan State Spartans battled through lead changes during the first three rotations, but the final events had one team do their best and the other, their least impressive routines on the day.

Uneven Bars

The Scarlet Knights as the visitor in a dual meet began on uneven bars which on average has been their worst collective team event in 2019. Emily Drauss debuted in 2019 with a 9.700 last week and dipped slightly with a 9.675 to start things off for RU. Belle Huang and Riahanah Ali did not do their best, but Kaitlyn Hall was solid while Shannon Farrell and Michelle Amoresano each put up 9.800s to produce a team score of 48.600.

Coach Salim-Beasley surely hoped for better, yet despite the mild struggles, Rutgers only trailed by 0.225 points through the first rotation. Michigan State actually fared worse during their turn on the bars later (48.475), so this could be a case of some tough, winter Big Ten judging more than anything else. Amoresano and Farrell tied for third on the day. Freshmen Abigail Karolewski and Sage Littlejohn performed exhibitions.

Vault

Rutgers was steady on the vault in response. The scores were consistent throughout the lineup: Williams (9.625), Huang (9.750), Rizkalla (9.775), Amoresano (9.775), Ali (9.750), and Hall (9.700). Rizkalla and Amoresano finished in a six-way tie for first in the event with their 9.775s.

In addition to the clip above, you can re-watch all the vaults on the Rutgers gymnastics twitter feed except for Sophia Atienza’s exhibition due to technical difficulties. Coach Rosso had to love the competition though because 11 of the 12 gymnasts in the event spanning both teams tallied between a 9.700 and a 9.775. Rutgers was edged 48.825 to 48.750 in vault itself, but narrowly led the meet 97.350 to 97.300 at the halfway point.

Floor Exercise

Coach Rosso’s lineup put up one of their better efforts of the year. Williams led things off with a 9.725 followed by 9.600s for Karolewski and Amoresano. Rizkalla and Huang put up strong 9.800s. Ali closed things out with an impressive 9.850, good for third place. Littlejohn performed her second exhibition of the day.

Michigan State was putting up their best scores of the meet through three rotations to take an infinitesimal advantage. Heading into the final rotation, the Scarlet Knights trailed by just one-tenth of a point, and beam has been arguably their best event the previous two contests.

Balance Beam

Rutgers dominated on the balance beam against Maryland and then put up a 49.000 against Penn State, but the scores against Michigan State in aggregate fell just below a 48. Polina Poliakova really battled through her routine in her first competitive action of the season. Though Hall and Amoresano were a tick above their season average, they did not approach their tallies from the last two weeks. Belle Huang tied for second with a 9.800, though that was not up to her record setting performance a week ago.

Assistant coach Anastasia Halbig has seen her group be inconsistent over the course of the season as a whole and this one came at a bad time. Ultimately this meet was decided by a freshman as Kiera Doherty-Herwitz fell early on before showcasing the skills that had earned her 9.825s the last two weeks. If she and Huang closed things out with the same scores as last week, we may be looking at a second consecutive win.

Key takeaways

It was a disappointing performance for Rutgers, who was due a let down after last week’s emotional victory. In fact, the Scarlet Knights actually did better in a quad meet last year in East Lansing, with a team score of 194.225. The way the scoring system works in gymnastics as five of the six scores count toward the team total, it’s difficult to win with two less than desirable scores on a single apparatus. RU had that on beam and Michigan State had that happen on bars, but MSU was bailed out with three 9.8+ in the event. Because of that, this meet was there for the taking.

There is no reason to blame the early start time. Rutgers did ok on the uneven bars which is far from their strength and led halfway through the meet. We’ll have to get information on Mia Betancourt’s absence. Her consistency even as a freshman has been on display all year and maybe she becomes an all-around competitor next season. Huang, Amoresano, and Ali finished 2-3-4 in the all-around today, for what it’s worth.

NEXT UP:

The women travel to Toledo, Ohio for their annual Big Five meet. This year’s competition features Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio State.