On Wednesday, March 11, the North Carolina gymnastics team was preparing for a meet at Maryland and getting ready to host the East Atlantic Gymnastics League championship in Chapel Hill.
The spread of COVID-19, though, quickly changed those plans. The next day, head coach Derek Galvin called a team meeting to announce that Maryland had canceled the meet.
“Maryland had declared a state of emergency, and their administration had felt that it was in the best interest of not just the spectators, but also the student-athletes,” Galvin said. “Even if they had not canceled the meet, we had already determined that we were not going to be attending.”
The NCAA announced the next day that it was no longer holding postseason events for winter sports due to coronavirus concerns. The EAGL championship was no longer a possibility, and with it went some of UNC's season-long goals.
“Regionals was a real goal that we had, and it was looking feasible for us,” senior Mikayla Robinson said. “But I feel like this should serve as motivation and fire for next season when (the team) is able to come back again.”
Missing out on the tournament was heartbreaking for the eight seniors on the team. But Galvin shifted his focus to the positive memories and urged the team to think about the Senior Night meet, where they defeated George Washington University, two weeks prior.
“We talked about embracing that final home meet that we had, which was the senior meet, and recognizing that there were a lot of college teams that hadn’t had their senior meet yet,” Galvin said. “We had the opportunity to recognize our seniors at a great competition where they all performed so well. That was their final big meet, something the entire team shared.”
In the coming months, the gymnasts will look to focus on staying fit. Since the athletes may not have access to a gymnasium to train, they'll go through conditioning drills and stretching routines to maintain their strength and flexibility.
The gymnastics department has even helped organize physical therapy and rehab treatments for injured or recovering athletes, since most of the gymnasts will not be in Chapel Hill for the duration of the summer.
“The athletic training staff is making arrangements with physical therapists back in their hometowns," Galvin said. "So if they have continuing PT needs, our staff will share information with physical therapists in their hometowns and continue to work on their rehab.”
As for recruiting, Galvin isn’t worried. Sports like gymnastics typically operate on a different schedule than others.
“Our recruiting is a couple of years out, we already know who’s going to be on the team next year, and we’ve recruited people for the following year as well," Galvin said. "We are already looking at people two to three years out.”
Galvin and the seniors decide on what values they want to embody as a team each season. This year, it was grit, grace and gratitude, denoted on the team's Twitter with the hashtag #G3.
“It encompasses all that gymnastics is," senior Mekyllah Williams said. "It’s hard, that’s why you have to have grit. It’s putting on a show, that’s where the grace comes in. And you have to be grateful for it, and you have to appreciate it to do your best.”
Although the 2020 season came to a sudden halt, the gymnastics team came out of it with something more important than another win under its belt: a bond that will last for years to come.
“Whether it's 10 years from now or 20 years from now, when they come back for a team reunion or are communicating with each other," Galvin said, "this will always be the team that was G3."
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