Before the North Carolina gymnastics team’s opening meet against rival N.C. State, redshirt junior Acacia Cosentino had not competed in two years. Disregarding any type of adversity, Cosentino calmly took a deep breath, relaxed herself and began her routine on the bars.
As soon as she landed, every member of the UNC team exploded in excitement and sprinted toward Cosentino. They swarmed her with several hugs and congratulations. Cosentino’s impressive score of 9.85 would eventually earn her a second place finish in the uneven parallel bars event, helping the Tar Heels defeat the Wolfpack with an overall score of 194.075 to 193.950.
Last year, Cosentino tore her Achilles a few days prior to the first competition of the season. Despite the time spent away from competition, Cosentino said she was excited about her performance and did not want to have any regrets.
“I always feel a little bit nervous beforehand, but I was just thinking about using that to benefit me instead of hurting me,” Cosentino said. “Knowing that my teammates had my back and how great we were doing, I just wanted to keep that going.”
Coach Derek Galvin said he was impressed with Cosentino’s performance and praised her perseverance after last year’s season-ending injury.
“I would’ve given that routine a 10,” Galvin said. “In my heart, knowing that she’s come through to come back from an Achilles tendon injury — that was one of the most thrilling things I’ve experienced in a long time.”
Junior Haley Watts, who placed second in all-around, said that she was full of excitement after Cosentino finished her routine and that her presence provides a lift for the team.
“It’s amazing to see her come back from an injury like that, and it’s the first event she’s competed in for a very long time,” Watts said. “Acacia provides a very realistic perspective. She tells you like it is, but she gives you the confidence in yourself and she keeps the mood light and in a joking manner.”
Galvin said that even though Cosentino is not a captain, she still provides valuable leadership experience to the team.
“Acacia is a good leader by example,” Galvin said. “She’s not an outspoken vocal leader. That’s not a role we’ve necessarily expected from her. In practice, she’s encouraging her teammates and she comes into the gym every day and pushes herself, and that’s a great way to lead by example.”
Cosentino noted that the opening victory should set a tone for the rest of the season.
“Our program is taking another step this year, and I think it’s going to really benefit us,” Cosentino said. “So we came in here really competing against ourselves first and foremost, just doing what we know how to do.
And we know if we did that, then we would get the result we wanted.”
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