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Michigan State downs Rutgers Gymnastics Saturday

Scarlet Knights doomed on uneven bars.

Belle Huang and Emily Drauss could not reproduce their success on the uneven bars from the quad meet (pictured) earlier this year at the RAC.
Ben Solomon/Rutgers Athletics

Rutgers gymnastics hosted Michigan State Saturday at the RAC on Scout Day and Special Olympic New Jersey Day. The Scarlet Knights could not replicate the performance at Penn State a week earlier when they recorded the second highest road score in program history (195.700). In the end Rutgers fell to the Spartans 195.675 to 193.800, but there were plenty of positives to take away.

Still without an injured Mia Betancourt, Rutgers had a blip on the first rotation in vault, unable to reach the level set at Penn State when they recorded the second highest team total in program history in the event. Despite solid efforts from Kaitlyn Hall (9.825) who won the event, Hannah Joyner (9.775), and Belle Huang (9.700), two of the six gymnasts had major deductions unfortunately. Another bright spot was Freshman Jenna Ferugson who debuted in the event with an impressive 9.750, good enough for 5th overall on the apparatus as well. Michigan State had one fall as they started on bars, but their other five were solid and they led 48.975 to 48.300 through the first rotation.

Rutgers dug themselves in a hole they could not recover from in the second rotation on uneven bars. As MSU put up five good enough scores on vault, the Scarlet Knights had to count two sub-9.2 scores on bars. Shannon Farrell’s 9.875 to win the event wasn’t enough. Abigail Karolewski (9.725) and Joyner (9.700) also had solid showings. RU was now down 97.750 to 95.850 at the midpoint.

The Scarlet Knights did gain some ground back in their best event, balance beam. Kiera Doherty Herwitz’s 9.625 didn’t even count toward the team score because everyone else had at least a 9.775; Ferguson (9.800), Emily Drauss (9.800), Huang (9.775), Joyner (9.825), and Erin McLachlan (9.900). It was another individual win for McLachlan and her second 9.9+ of the season.

Rutgers entered the 4th rotation down 1.85 points, so it would take some awesome floor routines coupled with a little help. It did not begin well as Karolewski had a fall to lead things off. Jordyn Duffield picked up her teammate with a 9.750. Then after a disputed score for the Spartans on beam, Erin McLachlan had to wait a very long time before herself earning a 9.750. MSU dodged a bullet after a near fall on beam that would have given Rutgers a mathematical chance as Joyner did a great routine good for 9.850, good for second place on the day. MSU’s 5th gymnast in the final rotation, Lea Mitchell completed her routine without major deductions to lock up the individual all-around and the Spartans had the team win locked up regardless of what happened with their final participant. Belle Huang (9.875) and Sophia Atienza (9.625) ended the day for the home team.

Three individual titles and Joyner placing second in the all-around was nice, but the coaching staff has to be disappointed after such a great performance a week earlier. Coming into the weekend, Rutgers sat at 41st in the country with the top 36 qualifying for the NCAA Regionals though this weekend’s effort will likely result in a slight drop. The good news is that this team has not yet peaked and there’s plenty of gymnastics left. The freshmen trio of Joyner, Ferguson, and Duffield are starting to gain consistency and the top scores are high enough that if RU can avoid major deductions and falls, they should be right on the cusp of postseason cut-off.

Next up

There’s no rest in the Big Ten as the Scarlet Knights travel to #19 Maryland for a dual meet next Sunday, February 16 at 1 pm.