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Rutgers Gymnastics upsets #22 Ohio State in Big Five Meet

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Knights finish 4th, yet surprise the home Buckeyes.

FloSports: FloGymnastics Big Ten Championships
#8 Michigan took home 1st place in a dominating performance.
Catalina Fragoso (FLO)-USA TODAY Sports

The Rutgers Gymnastics team returned to action in a format other than a dual meet for the first time since January 12. The annual “Big Five Meet” featured half the members of the Big Ten gymnastics community: #8 Michigan, #14 Minnesota, #22 Ohio State, Illinois, and Rutgers. The meet was held at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio. Rutgers performed well against stiff competition:

Floor Exercise

The Scarlet Knights took their first rotation on the floor exercise. Toni Williams remained in the leadoff spot and started things off nicely with a 9.750. After a slip my Abigail Karolewski, the rest of the lineup finished strong: Michelle Amoresano (9.775), Jenna Rizkalla (9.775), Riahanah Ali (9.825), Belle Huang (9.875).

Coach Rosso’s group tallied an even 49.000, good for 3rd in the event as a team and 3rd best tally as a team in 2019. Individually, Huang was tied for 4th place, just 0.025 away from 2nd and 0.050 from first place. Overall, the day started out promising for the Scarlet Knights.

Vault

Rutgers continued in the vault hoping to maintain the consistency they have shown in the past three weeks. Williams led this event off as well with a 9.700 (tweet above). Up next, Rizkalla was unable to stick her landing, putting the a lot of pressure on the rest of the lineup. As they picked up Karolewski in the first event, the team did the same for Rizkalla in the second. Huang (9.700), Amoresano (9.800), Ali (9.775), and Kaitlyn Hall (9.725) all put up unspectacular, yet solid scores.

Coach Rosso’s other group put up a team score of 48.700 which was good for 4th, above their season average in the event. In reviewing the tweets of most of the performances, the landing mat seemed particularly soft and it looked like the gymnasts were expecting more firmness in their footing. The 9.800 for Amoresano was her season high, check it out in the tweet below:

Uneven Bars

Rutgers moved to the uneven bars and boy was it stiff competition from all five teams. Emily Drauss posted her career high of 9.800 to get things going for RU. Ali followed with a 9.725 just 0.025 below her career-high. Huang set a new collegiate career-high of 9.800 next. Hall (9.775) and Amoresano (9.750) were also well above their season averages. Shannon Farrell anchored with a 9.825 to pace the team, 15th overall.

Coach Salim-Beasley’s group had their 2nd best output of the season, but still finished 5th on the apparatus. The trending continues to be positive on the bars, though the team has a ways to go in climbing the Big Ten hierarchy on the apparatus. Fortunately, Salim-Beasley is an expert in the event and it has shown so far.

Balance Beam

The Scarlet Knights completed their day on the balance beam. First up was Hall who posted a 9.600. Ali (9.525), Sage Littlejohn (9.575), and Amoresano (9.625) avoided glaring mistakes. Kiera Doherty-Herwitz had a miscue for a second consecutive week after her breakout performance against Penn State. Huang concluded the day with a 9.675 to lead the team, although a tick below her season average and 18th overall.

Coach Halbig’s unit has a lot to takeaway from the 4th place finish, besting Ohio State. The 48.000 was better than a week ago, but slightly below the team’s average. When Rutgers is at their best on the beam, they can hang with anyone in the Big Ten. When they are not, an effort like Saturday is enough to keep the team afloat in a meet.

The Skinny

Rutgers did finish 4th of the five schools, but did upend #22 Ohio State for their second Big Ten victory of the season, both over ranked opponents. Toledo is in Ohio so the Buckeyes were officially the hosts, although the Michigan campus (an hour drive) is actually closer than Ohio State’s (about 2.5 hours) to the venue. The defining event was the balance beam where Ohio State had two subpar scores. That’s where consistent performance like Rutgers put forth all day can be the difference.

In the all-around Huang finished 7th, followed by Amoresano (9th) and Ali (10th). It’s continued progress for a program that is starting to show consistency. In the non-Big Ten meets over the next few weeks, hopefully we see more from the Scarlet Knights heading into the conference championship. The 2019 season under a new coaching staff appears to be a step forward thus far for the program.

Gymnastics for beginners

In women’s NCAA gymnastics after six meets, the system of ranking changes to the RQS system. To calculate RQS, start with the top three away scores and the next three highest scores — home or away. This system is how team and individual qualifiers for the NCAA championships are determined.

NEXT UP:

Rutgers heads up to New Hampshire next Saturday, March 2 for a quad meet also featuring Brown and NC State. The meet begins at 7 pm in Durham, NH.

The Big Ten championships take place a month from Saturday, March 23 at Penn State.