As she slid into her final pose of her floor exercise, senior Christina Pheil's lower lip quivered.
The North Carolina gymnastic team's 195.625-191.250 win over William & Mary marked Pheil's last time competing in Carmichael Arena. But for most of the meet, Pheil was smiling.
“She’ll find a positive," head coach Derek Galvin said. "She’ll find the silver lining."
Despite having the team's lowest score for floor and placing fifth for vault, Pheil didn't get discouraged. Like she had done all season, Pheil — who is considered the "team mom" — erased doubt with enthusiastic cheers and reassuring whispers to nervous gymnasts.
“If you’ve got a person that’s always optimistic and always looking at the positive side, it keeps the focus in the right place," Galvin said. "She’s done that for us.”
She didn’t place as highly in the vault as junior teammates Kaitlynn Hedelund, Madison Nettles and Morgan Lane — who took first, second and fourth, respectively. But that didn't matter. She tied her career best on vault and even got to compete in the beam in exhibition.
During the routine, Pheil somersaulted onto the beam, a new skill that she had been honing in practice.
“I haven’t competed exhibition beam this whole season, so that was really fun to do," Pheil said. "That’s a new skill, and it was still really fun to compete."
When Pheil heard the scores after each of the last three meets, her eyebrows shot up in amazement. She might not have done well, but the team excelled. And that's what she cared about most.
“It’s so wonderful to see such a talented group of girls do so well and put in the work and show it,” Pheil said.
For student assistant Ashley Landry, who can't compete for the team because of a career-ending injury, the realization that this was her last meet in Carmichael Arena didn't hit her until it was over.
Finishing up questions in a post-game interview, the emotion finally brought tears out of the senior's eyes.
"I love the culture," Landry said. "I love being around people that value the same things as you.”
Landry didn't let her cries come just yet. But Pheil did.
The watery eyes and shaky lips at the end of her floor routine only escalated. When Galvin and the assistant coaches went to hug the parents and seniors, Pheil came unglued. She started sobbing while watching a post-game video.
As the last cart was pushed off the arena floor, Pheil looked over her shoulder. A smile stretched across her face just like it had all night, but tears slowly rolled down her cheeks.
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