Amid this mix of sweat and power is freshman gymnast Morgan Lane.
At meets, the freshman is a top competitor, blowing away expectations and opponents. Here she is a part of the team — here she is a part of the family.
Cheering on her teammates as they stick a difficult landing, watching the tape to critique her performance and sitting surrounded by her team at the end of practice, Lane is an important part of the family that is Tar Heel gymnastics.
She wouldn’t be a part of this family, though, if it weren’t for her family back home.
One family, one team
Originally from Columbus, Indiana, Lane began gymnastics classes at the age of 2, following in her older sisters’ footsteps. Her family had already been involved with gymnastics because her two older sisters competed in the sport.
Neither of her sisters competes at the varsity collegiate level now — one is a member of Kentucky’s club team — but they continue to encourage and support her whenever it is possible.
“My sisters have made a ton of effort throughout club and this year to come to my meets if they can,” Lane said. “Even if it is really difficult to get here, they find a way.”
These close family bonds are what make her a good North Carolina teammate and competitor.
Although gymnastics can appear to be a highly individual sport, it requires a tight knit team of women to support and encourage each other. This is especially true at the college level.
Senior gymnast Haley Watts knows from experience.
“Coming as a freshman, that can be the most difficult thing — realizing that it isn’t about you as an individual,” Watts said. “Morgan has done such a good job adapting.”
Prior to coming to UNC, Lane rarely competed with people at the same age or talent level.
In high school, she decided to continue competing in club gymnastics rather than play for the school team. Although it can become lonely, club gymnastics is much more competitive and is the key to getting recruited by colleges.
“It was more I was on my own,” Lane said. “It was me and my coaches. It was kind of difficult to push myself.”
The environment at North Carolina is a drastic change from that. Competing for the Tar Heels means more than simply competing for the school name bedazzled across her leotard. It means competing for a team.
And that is exactly what Lane has done.
Junior gymnast Lexi Cappalli has no doubt Lane’s attitude and talent will lead to continued success at the collegiate level.
“She is a great teammate and is always willing to do whatever you want her to do,” Cappalli said. “She is so good at everything she does.”
So far, that positive attitude has translated to success on the mats as well.
Coach Derek Galvin expressed how promising Lane’s season has been so far.
“She is performing at a very high level right now,” Galvin said. “Her technique and execution and the skills she has are all very good.”
Lane’s talent has also been noticed outside of UNC. She has been recognized by the NCAA-affiliated East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL), already receiving the EAGL Rookie of the Week Award four times this season. Eight universities from four different conferences compete in this league.
But it isn’t only fellow rookies Lane is competing against — and beating. She has taken first place all-around the previous three meets in a row, edging out older and more experienced competitors. Of the seven UNC meets to date, she has taken home first place in four of them.
Yet through this, she never loses focus of what is important: the team.
Stepping up to receive first place all-around honors at the most recent home meet against Georgia, Lane first reached down and hugged her teammates who tied for second place all-around: Watts and fellow freshman Kaitlynn Hedelund.
Watts said Lane’s sense of what it means to be a part of a team is what makes her such a tough competitor at the collegiate level.
“She is always so quick to remind everyone it is all about the team,” Watts said.
But it is impossible for Lane to not stand out as an individual. Being such an impressive gymnast in her freshman year has brought with it well-deserved attention.
Her coach is impressed but not surprised with how well Lane has done in her first season with the team.
“Morgan has had such a wonderful start to her college career,” Galvin said. “But we knew before she came to Carolina that she was a talented athlete and a very bright student.”
Her talent not only lies in how she executes at meets, but how she is focused on improving every step of the way.
In the first meet of her collegiate career she received a 38.375 all-around score, good for fourth place. Since then she has continually improved.
At the most recent quad meet against N.C. State, Rutgers, and Kent State, she notched an all around score of 39.275 — almost a full point higher than her first score, placing her in first.
Knowing that Lane has an unwavering focus on improvement is important to her teammates.
“When it is her time to compete, I know she is going to go out there and hit it,” Watts said. “Which is an amazing thing to say about a freshman.”
Just the beginning
Lane is aware of the attention and expectations surrounding her, and she loves it.
“Coming (to North Carolina) and having the team atmosphere and always having someone there to push me — it is just amazing,” Lane said. “I want to get the most out of (UNC) that I can.
“Enjoy every minute of it.”
With a strong start to this season and three years at North Carolina ahead of her, there is no doubt Lane has a bright future.
She will continue to compete for — and with — her UNC gymnastics family.