Senior gymnast Belle Huang is one of many female student-athletes putting in countless hours of work both in the gym and in the classroom at Rutgers.
Huang has had an incredibly impressive career so far, with each of her career highs for individual events being in the high nines. With an all-around career-high of 39.350, Huang has qualified for the all-around event at the NCAA regionals twice in her college career. In her senior season, Huang placed fourth in the all-around event at the Big Ten Championships and third on beam.
Huang began her gymnastics career at a young age.
"My mom signed me up for some classes at a community center and it wasn't gymnastics related but there were just some little obstacle courses for kids to play on," Huang said. "I guess the teacher saw that I was having a lot of fun with it and suggested that my mom signed me up for some gymnastics classes at a nearby gym."
From there, Huang competed with Excellence Gym for 13 years where she won the national championship on the balance beam at the 2017 Junior Olympic Nationals. Huang placed sixth in the all-around division of that competition and then went on to place third at the 2017 Maryland Level 10 State Championship.
Once joining the Scarlet Knights (2-12, 1-7), Huang appeared in three NCAA Regional meets.
As a team, Huang and her team set a school record at the Big Ten Championships with a 195.675 for its highest-ever finish overall.
“I personally had a good meet, but also the whole team did," Huang said. "There is just so much exciting energy right before they flash the final score and to have set a new record for the school as where we placed in the Big Ten, I think that was huge.”
As a team MVP in 2019, Huang has received awards ranging from two 100% Hit Awards for vault to a Stick Queen Award in 2019. Most recently, Huang was named to the 2021 First Team All-Big Ten as well as the Big Ten All-Championship team.
Huang and Rutgers have done impressive things in the gym, like upsetting Auburn in the 2020 season and breaking school records in back-to-back seasons.
Academically, Huang has received eight academic awards in her four years at Rutgers. Huang is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree as well as a three-time Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-America winner.
“The biggest thing, honestly, was the academics. It’s a really great school academically," Huang said. "My parents weren’t really pushing for me to do college gymnastics but I wanted to, so the academic portion of Rutgers made my parents happy."
For female student-athletes, recognition and appreciation can be few and far between. After student-athletes at the women’s NCAA basketball tournament spoke out about the lack of equipment and proper food at their facilities, the sports world went up in arms and began to refocus on female athletes and the treatment they receive.
Women’s gymnastics is one of the most popular events at the summer Olympics, but collegiate coverage is small compared to the coverage of college football and basketball.
“I feel like we should belong here,” Huang said. “Yes, there are other sports that people care more about such as football and basketball but we made it to the collegiate level and I feel like we should be recognized as much as the men do … it’s not like we are working any less (hard) than the guys."
FULL SOURCE: The Daily Targum | Meet April's featured female athlete: Belle Huang