This season, senior Kristin Aloi had only competed in the floor routine for the North Carolina gymnastics team. But against Pittsburgh on Friday, Aloi replaced the injured freshman Christina Pheil on the vault.
She paced around the mat, took a deep breath and sprinted toward the springboard.
She landed with a big smile on her face and was greeted with a warm hug from head coach Derek Galvin — Aloi had just completed her first vault since 2012. She missed all of the 2013 season due to a foot injury.
Her score of 9.8 earned a third-place finish on the vault and helped UNC earn a 194.8 to 193.875 victory against Pittsburgh.
Aloi’s mark of 9.8 was the third-highest vault score by a Tar Heel this season. The senior said that she was nervous before completing the routine, but knew her teammates would rally around her.
“The experience was unreal,” Aloi said. “Right before my vault, I heard my teammates screaming and I’ve never felt them behind me more than in that moment.”
Aloi also competed in the floor routine and produced a score of 9.7 — her second-best mark of the season.
Galvin said that he was proud of Aloi’s performance on the vault and that it was a key moment for the team.
“She felt very confident and she convinced me that she could do the vault,” Galvin said. “She stepped up in a huge way.”
Freshman Megan Marenghi, who posted a score of 9.75 on both the bars and balance beam, said that she appreciates Aloi’s leadership abilities.
“She’s a great role model, and she gives great advice,” Marenghi said. “When I first came in, she was still coming back from injury, so just to see her go out and do an amazing vault for the first time since she had surgery is really cool.”
Aloi said that the threat of another injury lingered in her mind prior to the meet against Pittsburgh but added that the vault erased all of her worries. Galvin said that the team is one of the most cohesive groups he’s ever coached and part of the reason is due to the leadership of Aloi, who serves as a co-captain of the team.
As a leader, Aloi said that she concerns herself with the emotions of the team and tries to cheer her teammates up by removing any doubts in their abilities.
“This sport is all about confidence,” Aloi said. “We all can go out there and do the skills, but you really have to believe in yourself.”
“That makes it special and makes us stand up as a team.”
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