The Rutgers Gymnastics team had little time to soak in their Senior Night victory Friday with less than a 40 hour turnaround before a Quad Meet at Kent State (thanks daylight savings). This one was a two-horse race in the final rotation, and unfortunately RU was edged by a nose.
Slight change to the #1 and #2 spots for floor.— Rutgers Gymnastics (@RUGymnastics) March 10, 2019
1st up: Toni
2nd up: Sophia pic.twitter.com/vo7qobyLoN
The Scarlet Knights entered the meet on floor exercise with Toni Williams and Sophia Atienza in the lineup. Williams normally leads the Knights off on the floor and had a solid 9.675. Atienza was next and posted a career high albeit in a small sample set, tallying a 9.725. The rest of the lineup was tremendous, all scoring above 9.8: Michelle Amoresano (9.850), Jenna Rizkalla (9.800), Riahanah Ali (9.825), Belle Huang (9.900, tied for 3rd). See one of Huang’s passes in the tweet below.
Belle anchoring like a champ! She goes 9.9!! pic.twitter.com/3KiYluKQ3p— Rutgers Gymnastics (@RUGymnastics) March 10, 2019
Coach Rosso could not ask for much more than this, especially on a quick turnaround. This was RU’s third-best floor of the year and best away from home. The team will miss their seniors next year, but has showcased the talents of more younger gymnasts this past weekend. Sage Littlejohn did another exhibition while Betancourt and Farrell competed Friday. Rutgers actually only finished 3rd on floor as North Carolina had three 9.9+ and Ball State edged RU by just 0.025 for the entire team score, the smallest margin in gymnastics.
Rutgers continued with vault. Williams was in her normal range with a 9.725 followed by Huang’s 9.750. Rizkalla equaled her 9.850 from two days earlier before fellow senior Amoresano struggled. It was Michelle’s lowest score of the year, but she didn’t fall so the scoring seemed quite harsh. Ali (9.725) and Kaitlyn Hall (9.750) picked up their teammate.
Rizkalla continues to be on fire, check out her vault below:
TWO STICKS IN THE SAME WEEKEND Riz goes 9.85!! pic.twitter.com/XudcL79nVK— Rutgers Gymnastics (@RUGymnastics) March 10, 2019
Coach Rosso’s group as a whole put up a 48.800 which was good for 1st place as a team. The trio of seniors couldn’t sweep the awards for a second consecutive meet, but Rizkalla won first place for the third meet in a row. Atienza did another exhibition which is crucial again as the three seniors are running out of eligibility.
Rutgers was on bars next with Emily Drauss who labored tremendously putting a lot of pressure on her teammates. Huang also had a hard time, only registering a 9.375. Hall righted the ship with a 9.650 then Abigail Karolewski showcased more skills than we ever saw from her in a Rutgers uniform. Abi registered a 9.800, easily her career high placing 4th overall, just 0.025 points below the three way tie for first. Amoresano was one of those winners at 9.825. Shannon Farrell was not a repeat winner herself, totaling a 9.775 which was 5th place.
Well that was ... interesting. Toni Williams did an exhibition and if her 9.675 counted in place of one of the lower two scores, RU would have won the meet. Gymnastics will drive you crazy with what-if scenarios, but that just goes to show how close Rutgers is right now. Coach Salim-Beasley should be happy that she had three of the top five gymnasts on the day, two of which had career-highs but surely was left leaving the meet thinking RU could have gotten more in the event.
B-E-A-M— Rutgers Gymnastics (@RUGymnastics) March 10, 2019
Let’s go beam wooo ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/v9NKRIRDvB
The Scarlet Knights closed the day on balance beam within striking distance of Ball State. Hall went first with a 9.825 to put some pressure on Ball State. Mia Betancourt (9.725) was solid, but Rizkalla had a fall. RU’s last chances began with Kiera Doherty-Herwitz and she flashed the form that made her so successful in early February, earning a 9.800. Amoresano had a 9.775 but Ball State was clean enough that Huang needed a 9.875 to tie the meet which she had done just once this season. Belle did well with a strong 9.725, but RU would finish 2nd on the day.
Beam was the team’s lowest score Friday, but second best event today (good enough for 1st place as a team) so coach Halbig has to be happy. Sage Littlejohn even added a 9.775 in an exhibition as she continues to improve. It would have been nice to win the meet, especially on beam since that has seen the most inconsistency for the Knights in 2019. That being said, seeing three freshmen with a 9.7+ is a promising sign for the future. Hall finished tied for 2nd overall as she tied her career-high.
This was a weird meet looking in retrospect because looking at the RQS a day afterward, Kent State is 35th in the country and North Carolina 46th, yet neither program even reached a 193 in the meet. Ball State (44th) and Rutgers (45th) are adjacent to UNC in the standings, but easily distanced themselves from the Tar Heels in the meet. The defining event was bars where Kent State and UNC each had three subpar scores, while RU had two and Ball State just one. Perhaps this was luck, the apparatus itself, or opponents were resting gymnasts. Nevertheless odd to say the least.
Rutgers at 45th in RQS is 6 spots higher than their ranking for team average for the whole season (51st). This demonstrates two things from how those calculations are reached, 1. Rutgers has improved over the course of the year and 2. RU likely gets less of a home venue advantage than the average program. For reference, RU finished 2018 at 56th (RQS) and 57th (avg) so no matter how you look at it, RU is a better team compared to the field. The Big Ten is tough, but not nearly as much as the SEC with all eight teams in the top 20 or PAC-12 that boasts all eight of its squads in the top 31.
Amoresano’s improvement from last year to this year is astounding. She and Huang were the only two all-arounders, so officially they finished 1st and 2nd which will look good on their career resumes. Michelle so far in 2019 has improved her average score in each of the four events. She didn’t compete on floor at all last year and on beam has shot up from an average of 9.475 to 9.645 in less than one season, wow.
Rutgers travels to Ithaca for a matchup with Cornell this Sunday at 1 pm, their final tune up before the conference championship.
The Big Ten championships take place Saturday, March 23 at Penn State.