The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday March 21st

UNC gymnastics finishes second in Sweetheart Invitational

After showing steady improvement during its first four meets of the season, the North Carolina gymnastics team experienced a disappointing drop-off last week at George Washington.

What was to blame?

“It was a Monday, we had class the next day, it was a long van ride — there was just so much stuff going on that we let get to us,” senior Elizabeth Durkac said.

Whatever the reason, the Tar Heels knew they had to refocus for Saturday’s Sweetheart Invitational in Raleigh. And they did just that, posting their second-highest team score of the season.

The Tar Heels’ score of 195.55 placed them second in the six-team meet, just behind host N.C. State.

“We did a really good job of staying focused and staying together as a team,” sophomore Janell Sargent said. “We were able to roll past the few rough points that we did have.”

No one had a bigger turnaround from the previous meet than Sargent. After an uncharacteristically low score on the balance beam last week, Sargent recorded a career-best 9.900 on Saturday.

“It was really exciting, especially because last week at GW I had probably one of the worst beam routines I’ve done in a long time,” Sargent said. “So it was really encouraging to come back from that and be able to nail a routine and do what I know that I can do.”

Sargent wasn’t the only Tar Heel to rebound from adversity Saturday. Despite having ankle trouble for the past few weeks, Durkac decided to compete in pain.

She was nervous that her ankles would swell up and become sore after the meet, but she said adrenaline, mental toughness and the support of her teammates helped her perform at her best.

With so much athletic tape on her ankles that it felt like “wearing a cast,” Durkac posted a personal-best 9.900 on the uneven bars and took first place in the all-around competition with a score of 39.275. It was her third all-around victory of the season.

Durkac gave credit to her coaches for her nearly flawless uneven bars routine.

“The coaches have been really getting on me to get my handstand all the way up in my routine, so that’s what I tried to go for,” Durkac said. “Obviously it paid off, and it was very exciting and I know it was exciting for them, too.”

Despite finishing in first place on the bars and tying for first on the beam, the Tar Heels said they haven’t peaked.

But with the excitement of the beginning of the season fading and physical wears and tears setting in, UNC knows it must work hard to avoid setbacks like the one it had at George Washington.

“I think we still have room for improvement, but we are continually making those improvements,” Sargent said.

“From the first meet until the meet yesterday, I think that we’ve been making steady improvements and we’re learning from our mistakes.”

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