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UNC gymnastics feeds off crowd in home win against Towson

Khazia Hislop gymnastics beam Towson

Sophomore Khazia Hislop competes in the beam event against Towson University on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 in Carmichael Arena.

"Pound the Alarm" echoed throughout Carmichael Arena before North Carolina gymnastics took on its iconic final rotation on floor. 

Fans of all ages got up on their feet and started dancing along with the beat. It was the right, and typical, atmosphere for the Tar Heels before they began their favorite rotation — energetic and fun. 

“It’s fun when all of the little kids come because it kind of puts into perspective what it’s all about,” sophomore Lily Dean said.

That crowd helped UNC (6-3, 3-1 EAGL) defeat conference rival Towson (3-5, 0-2 EAGL) 195.075-193.000 on Saturday afternoon in its first-ever Mental Health Awareness meet, thanks to a standout score of 48.900 during floor and solid performances across the other three events. 

While there were slip-ups and miscues that prevented UNC from breaking the 49-point barrier, you wouldn’t be able to tell when watching the audience. 

Throughout graduate student Megan Ruzicka’s floor routine, which scored a 9.325 after an unbalanced landing out of bounds early in the performance, a young blonde girl dressed as Ariel from The Little Mermaid danced along with the gymnast. As junior Mikayla Robinson dominated her performance, multiple football players in the audience cheered her on. 

The fans and gymnasts seemed to have fun, which has always been UNC’s goal. That energy helped translate into a Tar Heel win.

“That was the most fun I’ve had during floor,” Dean said. “It’s always fun to compete at home with everybody you know watching, just showing off what you can do.”

Floor has consistently been the Tar Heels’ top event, in which they’re currently ranked No. 21 nationally. While the gymnasts are strong and talented in the event, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that truly makes this event a special one for UNC. 

“Marie Denick, our associate head coach, is the primary coach on floor,” head coach Derek Galvin said. “Emma Sibson choreographed the routines, and Marie arranged all the music and is the one that plans all their daily workouts … A lot of it is her coaching, but it’s the talent too.” 

“The grace and elegance of dance combined with the power of tumbling is a lot of fun to watch,” Galvin continued.

And behind each practice and floor routine, there’s something significant to the gymnast. For Robinson, it’s the music choice that speaks to her most, because the one word to describe her routine is outgoing.  

“The music is a little bit outside of my comfort zone, and I’m a little bit more of a quiet person,” Robinson said. “I feel like I’m a different person when I step out onto the floor just because it’s a little bit more out there than I am.” 

UNC swept the top five for the event, as well as placing in the top five for the other three events. In vault, Hislop took home first with a score of 9.900, while first-year Drew Aldridge and Robinson tied for second with a score of 9.800. 

As for uneven bars, which has been the Achilles’ heel for UNC the last few seasons, junior Mekyllah Williams took first with a career-high 9.800. First-year Emery Summey also had a career-high score of 9.675. 

Beam was rocky for UNC; however, it wasn’t as detrimental as its last home meet against N.C. State. During the Jan. 25 meet, three Tar Heels fell, a mistake that docked their individual scores by half a point. That event ultimately prevented UNC from the win. 

On Saturday afternoon, only one Tar Heel fell, allowing UNC to drop that score as only five out of the six scores count. Hislop and sophomore Rylie Dewhurst tied for second in the event with a score of 9.800. 

Part of the reason for UNC’s universal success on all four events was due to the audience interaction, something the team feeds off of. 

“(Saturday’s meet) especially, every time someone would hit a routine, the crowd was getting really crazy,” Dean said. “It was motivational to want to do better each routine and building off of each other.”


@DTHSports |

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