The beat echoed throughout Carmichael Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Audience members of all ages were up and dancing along with the gymnasts. No matter what team they were pulling for, the fans cheered for everyone. The atmosphere was energetic and united, just as the team wanted in honor of the annual Women’s Day and Pink meet.
The North Carolina gymnastics team (4-1, 1-0 EAGL) placed second with a score of 195.150 against No. 1 Oklahoma (197.000) and Ball State (193.600).
“It was a lot of fun from my perspective,” head coach Derek Galvin said. “I felt like our team’s energy level is really high. They fed off of each other, which is what we want them to do, and encouraged each other and cheering each other on.”
With Saturday serving as the team's home opener, nerves filled the squad; however, the enthusiasm from the 3,612 fans in Carmichael Arena on the afternoon provided a welcoming atmosphere for the new faces on the squad.
“Oh my gosh, the energy in here is unlike anything I’ve ever felt,” graduate transfer Megan Ruzicka said. “Just having so many fans here keeps us so excited to come in here and do the best we can.”
Across the board, the Tar Heels improved in all four events, ultimately boosting their overall score almost a point compared to last week at the Lindsey Ferris Invitational, where the team took first with a score of 194.175. The biggest point jump between the two weekends was in bars by 0.45. The scores ranged from 9.65 to 9.825 on Saturday and while at the Lindsey Ferris Invitational the scores were between 9.4 and 9.75.
The quick growth in points within a week shows the potential to reach new heights for the team, with new gymnasts learning the ropes and old veterans leading the way.
“Today was a really good building step because there are a few things that we can improve on,” Ruzicka said. “But we finally put it together, and I think that’s what matters to us.”
Comparing Oklahoma and UNC side by side, the Sooners were strong across the board, scoring over 49 in every rotation except floor.
The floor routines have consistently been the strongest event for UNC over the last several years, never failing to bring fans to their feet. On Saturday, the Tar Heels didn’t disappoint as they scored a 49.175 for the event.
The five gymnasts scored between a 9.775 (junior Jamie Antinori) and a 9.925 (junior Khazia Hislop) on floor. Through it all, each young woman had a smile on her face.
“We just have a blast no matter what’s happening,” Hislop said. “If we’re falling and getting zeros or getting 10s, it doesn’t matter. We’re just having fun this year. We push ourselves by having fun.”
The key to their success is just as Hislop described — having fun.
Throughout the beam event on Saturday afternoon, Hislop was calm, poised and collected. Her facial expression showed deep concentration and hardly a smile, if any at all. The floor routine showcased a different side of the junior.
When the first note hit, the nerves of the home opener seemed to wash away. With each step, each leap, each flip, Hislop’s smile grew, eliciting louder cheers from her teammates who danced along with her on the sidelines.
The easygoing attitude paired with a difficult routine earned Hislop a score of 9.925, putting her in a tie for second. While the routine itself showcased the long practices and a dedicated work ethic, her personality slowly started to shine through, allowing her to truly be calm and have fun.
“I was just really excited,” Hislop said with a smile that went ear to ear. “Lately, I’ve just been feeling very at ease at floor and just having a lot of fun with the routine.”
@DTHSports | firstname.lastname@example.org
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.