NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (April 11, 2011) – The Rutgers gymnastics program held its annual awards banquet Sunday afternoon at the Broward Faculty Room in New Brunswick.
The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics honored head gymnastics coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton with a shadow box and commemorative watch in honor of her final season at Rutgers. The 2011 season was the 25th and final campaign for Chollet-Norton, who is retiring.
Freshman Alexis Gunzelman (Tabernacle, N.J.) was honored as the Most Valuable Gymnast. The first-year Scarlet Knight competed in every meet this season. She participated in the all-around in each of the final five meets for RU with an average score of 38.194. Gunzelman scored a season-high 38.900 in the all-around to place second overall in a five-team meet on Senior Day for the Scarlet Knights. The freshman averaged a 9.627 on the vault, a 9.569 on the balance beam, a 9.548 in the floor exercise and a 9.467 on the uneven bars.
Gunzelman was also named Rutgers’ East Atlantic Gymnastics League Most Valuable Gymnast.
Freshman Luisa Leal-Restrepo (Cali, Colombia) was the recipient of two Outstanding Athlete Awards, given to an individual who tied or broke a school record during the season. Leal-Restrepo registered a score of 9.875 on the vault on Feb. 12 to tie the school record mark first established by Rachael Ciarlante in 1997. She also broke the school record for the all-around with a score of 39.375 on Feb. 26 to capture first-place honors. The freshman topped the old mark set by Katie Russo 11 years ago to the day on Feb. 26, 2000.
Sophomore Jenna Zito (Rockaway, N.J.) was named the Most Improved Gymnast. She competed as an all-arounder for the second-straight season where she averaged a score of 38.260. The mark is an improvement of her freshman year all-around average score of 37.743. Each of her event averages – 9.639 on the vault, 9.460 on the uneven bars, 9.428 on the balance beam and 9.730 in the floor exercise – were an improvement from the year before. Zito also scored new career-high marks on the uneven bars and on the balance beam with a 9.650 and a 9.775, respectively.
Five gymnasts were recipients of the 100 Percent Award, which is given to individuals who did not have a fall during their routine the entire season. Sophomores Nicole Romano (Livingston, N.J.), Zito, and freshmen Leal-Restrepo and Gunzelman earned the award on the vault. Zito also captured the award on the uneven bars and in the floor exercise. Senior Kiah Banfield (Newbury Park, Calif.) and Leal-Restrepo also took home the award in the floor exercise.
Banfield and Romano were each recipients of the Scarlet Leadership Award, given to the individual or individuals who are true leaders and set a positive example for their teammates inside and outside of the gymnasium. Banfield was a top gymnast for RU throughout her career and consistently scored high marks on the vault and in the floor exercise. She averaged one of the top scores in the floor exercise (9.774) and vault (9.553) this season. In her second season with the Scarlet Knights, Romano was a standout on the vault and in the floor exercise this season. She scored a career-high 9.800 in the floor exercise at the EAGL Championship and recorded a career-best 9.700 on the vault on Feb. 12 in a victory over Cortland.
Junior Alexendra Belvis (Addison, Ill.) took home the Team Player Award, given to the individual who embodies the most important characteristics of team sports and puts her teammates first whether it is in practice or a meet. Belvis returned from a knee injury and posted a career-best score of 9.300 on the balance beam during the year.
The program honored its eight seniors – Banfield, Erica “Sunny” Gerlach (Papillion, Neb.), Ellese Gold (Englewood, Colo.), Leigh Heinbaugh (Sicklerville, N.J.), Nicole Rose (Maple Shade, N.J.), Brooke Schwamburger (Powell, Ohio), Sara Woodward (Tallahassee, Fla.) and Maddie Zwiebel (Bridgewater, N.J.) – at the banquet as each received a commemorative shadow box.