As the North Carolina gymnastics team entered Sunday’s meet in Washington, D.C., coach Derek Galvin didn’t know what to expect.
“This team has the least amount of competitive experience of any team we’ve had in several years,” Galvin said.
The team graduated five seniors last season, but senior co-captains Elizabeth Durkac and Maura Masatsugu stepped up to lead the young team to a second-place finish in the Lindsey Ferris Invitational with 192.95 points — less than half a point removed from the first place George Washington team.
Durkac, who placed third overall, won the vault, earning a personal best score of 9.825. On the uneven bars, she tied her personal best for the fifth time with a 9.85, earning a second place finish.
Masatsugu took first place on the balance beam with a score of 9.825.
Although the seniors competed well, both Durkac and Galvin said they think the team needs to focus on developing the less experienced athletes.
But despite his team’s lack of familiarity with collegiate competition, Galvin said he was pleased with the enthusiasm displayed.
“The team did well, we had all three of our freshman compete significantly,” he said. “I think they had a good first meet experience.”
Leading the freshmen was Josselyn Mackey with a sixth place all-around finish. Freshmen Sarah Peterson and Lexi Cappalli scored third and fourth in the vault, respectively.
Durkac said she was very proud of her teammates and the way they performed.
“It was their first college meet, and they did great,” she said. “We asked a lot out of them. They will definitely improve — they’ll get the hang of things and get the jitters out.”
Although the team did well in its first competition, Galvin said there are still many adjustments that need to be made in order to continue to improve.
“The mistakes that were made are things that we can go back to in our training and work on,” he said. “I think that everyone on the team recognizes that there will be improvement in those areas.”
One of these areas is the floor exercise where Durkac and teammate Haley Watts tied for ninth place, the highest finish for the Tar Heels in the event.
Galvin said his solution will be more practice and repetitions of routines.
“What we will be focusing on is continuing to build our endurance on the floor to become more consistent athletes,” he said.
Even though the team placed well, Galvin said the most important outcome of the meet was the experience his young athletes gained.
“They need to be able to go into competitions confident about what they’re taking on,” he said. “Now that they’ve gotten through this first meet they will be more confident.”
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