On Jan. 7, at its first meet of the year, the UNC gymnastics team posted its best season-opening score in program history.
This impressive tri meet performance is not a coincidence, though — it comes as a result of the hard work of newcomers, returning athletes and staff.
First-year Lali Dekanoidze, ranked No. 11 in all-around nationally, wasted no time in opening her career as a Tar Heel, earning the highest all-around score at her first college meet. After competing in all four events, Dekanoidze walked away with a score of 39.325 out of 40 possible points.
However, she said she knows her craft is not yet perfect and values her training in her pursuit to become better.
“We all just competed how we trained,” Dekanoidze said. “I could improve on better landings and some floor things.”
North Carolina’s new head coach, Danna Durante, reiterated that Dekanoidze’s impressive performance was not a surprise and that the young athlete performed just like she practices.
“She's just very consistent and very steady,” Durante said. “She works very hard, constantly striving to be better, which is an overriding theme of this team.”
This season, Durante has brought her two decades of college gymnastics coaching experience to UNC, saying that North Carolina’s goal to educate and inspire through athletics hit home for her. She said she now seeks to implement this goal to develop a strong sense of trust among her team.
“Trust is important universally in relationships,” Durante said. “There’s a great sense of transparency (on the team), and they feel like it’s a partnership.”