While competing against No. 3 Florida Friday night, the North Carolina gymnastics team was surrounded by a sea of rainbow shirts and flags in Carmichael Arena.
The crowd of 4,071 spectators broke UNC’s record by 719 people. For head coach Derek Galvin, the audience affirmed what he already knew.
“This means that we did the right thing,” Galvin said.
In the Tar Heels’ 197.325-194.300 loss to Florida on Friday, UNC partnered with Nike as a part of its 2016 #BETRUE campaign to celebrate and encourage the passion of LGBTQ athletes across the world. The meet was dedicated to former UNC gymnastics coach Kendra Ourso, who coached the Tar Heels from 1975-81.
“I think that, unfortunately, things in this country have shifted a little bit,” Galvin said. “I thought that we were making some progress, and it looked like the focus was being lost on what’s right.”
The meet was inspired by a similar situation in 2004, when UNC gymnastics held a cancer awareness event, in honor of the mother of then team member Miranda Ross.
“Courtney Bumpers was on the team at the time, very good friend of Miranda’s, and Courtney came to me and said, ‘Is there anything we can do for Miranda’s family?’” Galvin said.
The team wasn’t sure what they should do. In the end, they hosted a health fair in conjunction with the meet. Representatives from different support groups that help families dealing with cancer showed up two hours before the meet started to talk to attendees. The rest is history.
“It grew, and I partnered with a group of people called the Pink Pacers,” Galvin said. “It grew some more, and we started doing some fundraising. We did breast cancer support; we did pediatric oncology. Then other schools started doing it. Now, everyone has a pink meet. We were one of the first sports, first teams, to do ... the pink meet.”