With the rest of the North Carolina gymnastics team lined up around her shouting encouragement, Kaitlynn Hedelund stands facing the vault, calmly waiting for the judge’s signal.
Saturday in UNC's meet against Georgia, Hedelund, a freshman, competed in vault for only the third time in her college career. She had used her collegiate experience to prove why she deserved to continue competing in vault.
At the previous meet against William and Mary, Hedelund notched a 9.85 for successfully completing a Yurchenko, a difficult vault involving a round-off and a back handspring. Although her score Saturday dropped slightly to a 9.775, she still produced a strong performance despite her inexperience in vault at the collegiate level.
Hedelund said she does not feel as though her lack of experience has an effect on her performance.
“I am very comfortable with my vault now,” Hedelund said. “I have been training (vault), and training it, and training it, and I know I have done a thousand so every time I go up on vault, I know I can do it.”
But vault is not the only event Hedelund has been excelled at. At Saturday’s meet Hedelund notched two season-high scores with a 9.775 on floor and an all-around score of 39.075.
Continually improving on previous individual performances is a personal goal of Hedelund’s, and these two impressive scores show just how strong of a contender she is becoming as her first season at the collegiate level progresses.
Coach Derek Galvin explained it is not only her performance that makes her such a tough competitor, but also her attitude.
“Kaitlynn is a very tenacious competitor,” He said. “You can see it in the way she performs, and we love that spirit that she has. We want that to be the team personality.”
It is promising for North Carolina’s gymnastics program to see such talent and passion in a freshman — both Hedelund and another talented freshman, Morgan Lane, who took home first place.
The strong performance by freshmen at Saturday’s meet provided the Tar Heels with a personal victory even though the judges’ scores were in favor of the Gymndogs.
Competing against a team as tough as the Georgia Gymndogs, who have won multiple NCAA championships, is a daunting task, but it is an irreplaceable experience, especially for the freshmen.
Junior Lexi Capalli expressed her excitement at seeing such talent in the underclassmen.
“(The freshman) have stepped up so much this year. I am so proud of every single one of them. I can’t say enough about them.”
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