Sitting in the audience, you would never know something was wrong with North Carolina sophomore gymnast Kaitlynn Hedelund.
You could tell in her stance she had poise. The flick of her hands back as she landed perfectly on the mat told it all.
You'd never guess she was recovering from a sprained ankle. She masked it well.
“She’s a very talented athlete,” Coach Derek Galvin said.
Hedelund performed event after event Friday night at Carmichael Arena against N.C. State (7-2, 3-0 ACC) and William & Mary. And despite injuring her ankle near the beginning of the month, her fourth-place tie in the all-around competition helped UNC secure second place with 193 points.
“I really just focused on competing like I practice every day, and really just paying attention to my little details and cues that I have,” Hedelund said.
In an attempt to recover from her ankle injury, Hedelund did not compete on the vault a week ago against N.C. State. But she was determined to prepare herself mentally and physically and focused on putting her best foot forward as an all-around competitor.
She performed confidently, sticking almost every landing and setting personal records with season and career highs.
Hedelund notched a career-high score of 9.875 on the vault, placing first overall in the event. She then proceeded to notch a season-high score of 9.725 on the uneven bars, placing third overall, and a career-high of 9.825 on the balance beam to finish second overall.
Entering the balance beam, she was clearly prepared to set the record straight about her ankle.
“It was one of the best beam routines I’ve ever seen her do," Galvin said.
Hedelund was not initially supposed to compete on the floor exercise or the vault in the previous meet against N.C. State because of her injury. But despite her status, she did so anyway.
A week ago, she tallied a score of 9.125 in the floor exercise, but she bounced back with a score of 9.200 in the event on Friday. Despite her improvement, Hedelund could not successfully set her landing, leaving her frustrated and disappointed.
“I was a lot higher than I normally am, so I don’t know," Hedelund said. "I guess I just didn’t quite find the landing.”
But her coach didn't have a problem with it.
“We want them to go big, and she went big,” Galvin said. “Kaitlynn’s one of those gymnasts that if her body cooperates, she’s phenomenal.”
Despite Hedelund's heroic effort in the vault and balance beam, the Tar Heels finished in second place with 193 points, losing to N.C. State by 1.05 points.
“It’s always an uphill battle,” senior Lexi Capalli said.
So Hedelund and the Tar Heels will continue to climb.
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