Friday night’s meet at N.C. State was a first for freshman Christina Pheil.
In her first meet away from Carmichael Arena, and only her second contest in college, , the Florida native was a bright spot for a North Carolina squad that struggled. Even though UNC earned a team score of 192.450, it finished third behind Michigan and N.C. State, respectively, who earned scores of 196.800 and 195.650.
Pheil ended the night tied for UNC’s best score on the floor while also finishing as the Tar Heels’ second leading scorer on the vault . The freshman, who finished second overall in floor in last week’s meet against N.C. State , earned the same score of 9.850 again on Friday night.
“Definitely, the crowd (was different tonight). It’s obviously geared towards Carolina back home, but the way that we’re here and the way that we’re there, the energy is still the same,” Pheil said.
Originally from St. Petersburg, Fla., Pheil joined a North Carolina squad that last year was one of the youngest in the East Atlantic Gymnastics League. Although fresh out of high school and already having an immediate impact as a freshman, Pheil wouldn’t call the transition difficult.
“‘Difficult’ I don’t even think is the word for it because it’s been such a surreal experience to be with these girls … It’s almost just an adjustment,” Pheil said. “The way that I’ve bonded with these girls, the way I’ve done my gymnastics here, it’s almost like there’s no change.
“I mean, the way they drew me in was that Carolina’s a home to me, and that was one thing, when I came here I knew I’d feel comfortable, I knew I’d feel ready to compete for them.”
Pheil is only one third of a freshman class that coach Derek Galvin will surely depend on in years to come, a class that also includes Megan Marenghi of Plano, Texas and Margaret Brown from Waxhaw..
While the floor exercise was her best event on Friday, Pheil also improved in the vault and the beam from her first college competition a week ago. Pheil jumped from a score of 9.100 to 9.150 on the beam and from 9.675 to 9.725 on the vault after last week’s home victory against the Wolfpack.
For Galvin, the significance of Pheil’s performances cannot be understated. EAGL co-gymnast of the year Elizabeth Durkac having graduated, this year Galvin needed some of his underclassmen to step up.
“It’s very important (that our underclassmen are contributing) because we don’t have a lot of depth on our team,” Galvin said. “We have a small squad this year, we have 12 athletes competing, and they’re all working really hard.”
Both Galvin and Pheil know that if the Tar Heels want to make any noise in the postseason, they need the younger members of the team to keep improving. To do that, as the freshman put it herself, the girls just need to keep doing what they are doing.
“Confidence is key for me,” Pheil said. “I know that, like we have been discussing in our team, it’s doing what we normally do, and having the confidence, doing what we’ve been training, and reciprocating it back in my routines.”
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