“It was kind of an out-of-body experience competing for the last time in Carmichael,” said Hargrave, who celebrated her senior night along with Jamie DeCicco and Megan Ruzicka on Friday.
With resilience, passion and dedication, all three gymnasts faced challenges during their collegiate career that led them to this final home meet. A meet that started promising but ended in a 194.950-194.275 loss to New Hampshire.
“It’s the story of three amazing women,” head coach Derek Galvin said of his seniors. “They’ve all overcome adversity, they’ve all been tenacious in the way they trained and competed, and it’s inspiring to be around people like that.”
Both DeCicco and Hargrave suffered injuries that could have ended their gymnastic careers, but Galvin has seen them fight to remain in competition.
“This is a sport that gets harder the older you get, and as seniors they’re having their best year ever,” Galvin said of the two.
After a successful vault and 48.700 team score on the uneven bars, North Carolina held onto a slim .025 point lead entering the third period balance beam event.
DeCicco ended her home career with a spectacular performance on the beam. Following her career-high score of 9.900 at N.C. State last weekend, DeCicco just missed tying her best with a score of 9.850 on the beam.
But less focused on her own senior night, DeCicco said her beam performance was for her teammate, junior Emily White, who injured her knee during Friday’s warmups.
“I thought about competing for her,” said DeCicco, who suffered from a torn ACL in high school. “Every time I go up to the beam it’s for my team … Doing the performance for her was really special.”
Ruzicka also celebrated her senior night with a 9.725 score on the bars that landed her in the top five.
“She has worked tirelessly,” said Galvin of the graduate student, who came to UNC after an injury ended her undergraduate career at Iowa. “She’s someone that gives it everything she has every time she steps into the gym.”
DeCicco and Ruzicka’s performances couldn’t make up for other shaky Tar Heel routines on the beam, and the team fell 1.625 points behind New Hampshire entering the final rotation of the night.
Galvin acknowledged that it “didn’t work out” on the beam on Friday.
“Things didn’t go the way we wanted them to,” the 38th year head coach said.
It would be the floor routine that decided whether North Carolina would walk away with its second loss in a row or finish strong at home for the seniors.
UNC’s Mikayla Robinson, a junior, was lights out in her floor routine with a career-high 9.900, but it was junior Khazia Hislop who stole the show with a first-place score of 9.950.
UNC received a season-high score (49.275) in its floor routine, but the shakiness on the balance beam would ultimately result in the team's second straight loss.
Linked arm-in-arm with their families, the three senior Tar Heels were sent off from the mat that they’ve competed on so many times before.
“It’s been the biggest blessing,” said Ruzicka. “Knowing that I gave it my all.”
As “I Lived” by One Republic played over a collage of photographs and videos of the seniors at Carmichael, the crowd was reminded of the countless years and hard work it takes to get to this special moment in an athlete’s career.
And perhaps, what it means to give it your all, one last time.
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