RALEIGH — It’s been many years since the North Carolina gymnastics team has nailed an uneven parallel bars performance at Reynolds Coliseum, Coach Derek Galvin said.
But Friday night, when it mattered most, the Tar Heels did just that.
In UNC's last event of the night, down by .700 to Rutgers and in the midst of a comeback after a shaky start on beam, the Tar Heels continued to ride their momentum to produce one of the top bars rotations of the season.
“Bars is an event where when we are on, we have a good team, and tonight they put together the best bar rotation that we’ve had in this building in many years,” Galvin said.
The gymnastics team went on to take first at the meet with a score of 194.950, defeating Kent State, N.C. State and Rutgers.
Led by freshman Morgan Lane, who took first all-around for the third consecutive week, the Tar Heels had four gymnasts finish in the top seven, with Haley Watts in second, junior Lexi Cappalli in fourth and freshman Kaitlynn Hedelund in seventh.
But getting there was not as smooth as the Tar Heels would have liked. The team’s first event, beam, proved to be its worst, and its team score of 48.200 was one of the worst of the season.
“We started off a little bit shaky on beam,” Cappalli said. “But we put it behind us and had probably three of our strongest events that we’ve had all year.”
Capped by the strong performance from Lane, the Tar Heels moved onto floor, where they composed themselves and showed their mental strength as they went on to record their second-best team performance of the year with a 48.900.
And from there, it only got better.
UNC, still in third place at this point, moved onto vault, where Cappalli scored her season-best with a 9.800, sticking the landing and running back with excitement, high-fiving her teammates and coaches and bursting with energy.
That energy continued, as Lane went next, also sticking her landing en route to a personal record. The rest of the Tar Heels kept up the momentum, and the team notched its best vault score of the year, a 48.900.
In second place now, just .700 of a point behind Rutgers, UNC moved onto its final event — bars.
Reynolds Coliseum is not just loud — the building practically lends itself to roars and vibrations that crush the eardrum. Throw in hundreds of screaming little girls to the already constantly changing upbeat, pop music and it becomes a distracting environment, which might be part of the reason UNC has struggled in recent years to nail its bars routine.
But Friday night, streaming the momentum from the last two events, the Tar Heels could do no wrong, as each gymnast flew through the bars with poise, sticking landings and executing complicated moves with grace.
“By the time we got to bars, the entire team was in the zone,” Galvin said.
Each individual performance elicited screams from teammates, as all of the Tar Heels scored a 9.725 or better to end the meet on a high note.
“One of our core values is bulletproof — so whatever happens we just remain unfazed throughout the meet. So we gathered together after beam, took a deep breath to settle and said ‘OK, what do we do to move forward?’" Cappalli said.
“And we did it.”
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