The eighth 2020 Rutgers gymnastics meet takes place Friday, February 21 at 7:00 pm in Toldeo, Ohio against four other Big Ten foes hence the name “Big Five”. The field features #16 Nebraska, #23 Illinois, Ohio State, Iowa, and the Scarlet Knights. Last weekend was a mix of ups and downs for the RU program as has been the case all season.
Sunday at #24 Maryland, Rutgers had an overall performance to forget, despite three individual event titles and the all-around title. To begin on bars (48.900), Rutgers was led by senior captain Shannon Farrell (9.875) who won the event and Abigail Karolewski (9.800). Then on the vault (48.925), fellow senior captain Kaitlyn Hall won the day with a 9.875 with Belle Huang and Hannah Joyner tying for 3rd place (9.825).
Rutgers held a 97.825 to 97.750 advantage halfway through, but was forced to count to subpar scores the rest of the way. On floor (47.800) Erin McLachlan and Jordyn Duffield had falls, while Belle Huang edged Hannah Joyner for third overall. On beam (48.375) without the injured McLachlan, Duffield struggled again as did Kiera Doherty-Herwitz. Rutgers took three of the top four spots including a title for Hannah Joyner (9.925) to edge Belle Huang (9.875), and Emily Drauss (9.800).
Rutgers avoided injuries most of 2019, but the loss of Mia Betancourt has really hurt depth and McLachlan is desperately needed on floor and beam for this team. After a promising start, they just have had too many mistakes in recent weeks. On the plus side there is still time to win meets and right the ship if they can just be consistent in their routines. The team has not yet peaked which bodes well for momentum heading down the stretch and it begins this weekend. Emily Drauss has been a pleasant surprise on floor while Hannah Joyner appears to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Belle Huang continues to be a solid all-arounder for the third straight year.
What to expect @ the Big Five Meet
Rutgers has its hands full after having slipped to 44th in the country with the top 36 qualifying for team regionals at the conclusion of the regular season. RU’s problems primarily stem from inconsistency, too many falls and deductions that often result in two subpar scores which then require your opponent to do the same for a chance to win the meet. Even last week, RU had two of each on both the beam (which was totally uncharacteristic) and the floor exercise. On the plus side, Belle Huang and Hannah Joyner continue to get the job done in all four events. The pressure seems to actually work in Rutgers’s favor per the results this season as they seem to be more focused the bigger the moment which could be huge in this setting.
#16 Nebraska ranks between 10th and 24th in the land on all four events in their typical solid top to bottom lineups. The Cornhuskers got pummeled though in Minnesota last week despite a 195.700 as the #8 Gophers (197.400) were just too strong. Nebraska has just 13 members of their team, yet two of them are from New Jersey (Kylie Piringer and Kaylee Quinn), the only state with two. Sophomore Quinn (Rockaway, NJ) injured herself in the second meet of the season after participating in all four events during the season opener. Piringer (Ramsey, NJ) has already registered three 9.9+ scores on floor in her freshman campaign.
#23 Illinois was upset by Michigan State last weekend 196.150-195.775. Three Illini 9.900 (Karen Howell, Kylie Noonan, and Shaylah Scott) scores on beam in the final rotation was not enough to close the gap as the Spartans hung on in East Lansing. Their best event is bars (#23), but their worst is vault (37th) which ain’t shabby.
Ohio State is 27th in the country per roadtonationals.com, beating Penn State by just two tenths of a point last week; 195.350-195.150. Danica Abanto and Alexis Hankins each totaled 9.900 on floor exercise to pace a team score of 49.425 in the event during the final rotation allowing the Buckeyes to stun the Nittany Lions. OSU’s bars lineup is ranked 12th in the country, but they are just 48th on beam.
Iowa is currently 33rd in the country after losing a heartbreaker to #8 Michigan last week. The Hawkeyes’ 195.975 was a typical Iowa in any sport; team wide-effort as not a single gymnast competed in the all-around or achieved a 9.9. They worked around a fall on bars and another on beam with all scores that counted being 9.675 or higher for the day. Iowa has one New Jersey native on their team, freshman Ariana Agrapides of Bayville who attended St. John Vianney. Their best even as a team is floor (#21).
Plenty of good gymnastics should be on display at this meet.
The Scarlet Knight squad heads to Morgantown to face blood and former Big East rivals West Virginia and Pittsburgh, Sunday March 1, 2:00 pm.