CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The University of North Carolina gymnastics program will begin the 2017 season on January 14 at the Lindsey Ferris Invitational in Washington, D.C. The meet feature host George Washington, along with Cornell and Pennsylvania.
Throughout the season, the Tar Heels will compete against some of the nation’s best programs, including two teams ranked in the top five. After travelling to Gainesville, Fla., in 2016, UNC will host No. 4 Florida in Carmichael Arena on Jan. 20. On March 12, North Carolina will travel to Los Angeles, Calif., to take on No. 5 UCLA, which will be a homecoming for Coach Amy Smith, who served as a coach during the 2010-11 season and was a competitor from 1994-97.
In 2017, the Tar Heels will host four meets at Carmichael Arena, including dual meets against Florida (Jan. 20), New Hampshire (Feb. 17) and William & Mary (Feb. 24). UNC will also host Towson, William & Mary and Wisconsin – Whitewater for a quad meet on Feb. 3.
“We want people in the community to be aware of us because of not only what we do athletically, but because of the type of students and citizens that are on our team,” said head coach Derek Galvin.
UNC IS NO. 5 IN THE EAGL PRESEASON RANKING
With the 2017 gymnastics season on the horizon, North Carolina is ranked fifth in the EAGL Preseason Poll. The Tar Heels trail NC State (31 points), George Washington (29 points), New Hampshire (24 points) and Pittsburgh (19 points). The poll is based on projections by the head coaches of the six EAGL member schools.
“Each year, we set goals in three different areas – athletics, academics and in the community. This year, our two competitive goals are to be the top team in the EAGL and qualify as an entire team to the NCAA Regional,” said Galvin.
Galvin continued, “I think that there is a tremendous amount of potential within this team. Staying healthy is going to be the key.”
FIVE RETURNING LETTERWINNERS FOR THE TAR HEELS
The 2017 squad features five athletes that have competed for North Carolina in previous seasons. This consists of one senior (Christina Pheil) and four juniors (Kaitlynn Hedelund, Morgan Lane, Madison Nettles and Lauren Weisel).
“They have a little bit more to deal with and enjoy this year in terms of helping new team members acclimate. They are doing what they can to help the 12 newcomers settle in and understand what it means to compete at the college level,” said Galvin.
These five athletes have all made significant contributions to the UNC gymnastics program during their careers thus far. Lane is currently tied for third place in the North Carolina record book on the beam and tied for sixth in the all-around, while Hedelund is tied for fourth place on the bars. Additionally, both Lane and Hedelund have qualified for the NCAA Regionals during the past two seasons. Combined, these gymnasts have garnered 12 All-EAGL and seven All-EAGL Scholastic Team honors.
In the preseason, Lane, Nettles and Pheil have been training for the all-around, Hedelund has worked on vault, bars and beam, and Weisel has concentrated on the floor.
“We took a slower approach with Kaitlynn this year. Last year, she was dealing with a leg injury, and it limited what she could do. We’ve been adding one event at a time,” said Galvin.
UNC WELCOMES TWELVE NEWCOMERS TO THE ROSTER IN 2017
There will be a plethora of new faces on the 2017 gymnastics squad, as 12 of the 17 athletes are newcomers to the team. This includes 10 freshmen and two sophomores, Jamie DeCicco and Madison Hargrave, who will return from injuries that kept them from competing in 2016.
These new athletes come to Chapel Hill, N.C., from 10 different states, including California, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Utah and Virginia.
“We’ve got a variety of skill levels within the freshman class. We’ve got some who will compete multiple events and some who are training just one or two events. Each person that’s currently training as a competitor is capable of making the lineup,” said Galvin.
Alexis Allen is from Sparks, Nev., and trained under Lena Dmitrieva at Gymnastics Nevada. She is a former USA Gymnastics Western Nationals champion on the vault.
Galvin: “Alexis has a tremendous amount of ability. She is learning how to compete with more consistency. We can see her contributing on balance beam and vault initially, and possibly bars and floor as the season progresses.”
Jamie Antinori received her gymnastics training at Black Diamond Gymnastics and Sports Center in Park City, Utah. She excelled at the 2015 Utah State Championships, winning the beam, floor and all-around.
Galvin: “Jamie has been one of the most hardworking student-athletes on the team, both academically and in the gym training. She has put herself in a position to be one of the contenders for a spot in the floor exercise lineup.”
Lydia Davis reigns from Smithfield, N.C., where she received her training at Morgan’s Gymnastics Academy. She is the first athlete from Johnston County to garner join a college gymnastics program. Selina Zhang is a native of Mason, Ohio, and trained at Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy.
Galvin: “Lydia and Selina are both concentrating on floor exercise and vault. They were both slowed down by some injury situations in the preseason, but they are starting to gain a little bit more momentum. I think they could work their way into the lineup eventually.”
Jamie DeCicco will join the competitive roster in 2017 after being unable to compete last season due to injury. DeCicco is a native of Fayetteville, Ga., where she trained at Gym South Gymnastics in 2012 and the Newman School of Gymnastics from 2013-15.
Galvin: “She has been looking really strong on balance beam, which is her main focus.”
Grace Donaghy comes to Carolina from Portland, Ore., where she trained at the Multnomah Athletic Club under the purview of Ivan Alexov and Meg Doxator. She is a former Western National champion on the uneven bars.
Galvin: “Grace is focusing on balance beam and uneven bars. We feel that she can make the lineup on both of those events.”
Raine Gordon is from La Canada, Calif, and trained under the guidance of Chris Waller at Waller’s Gym Jam Academy. She was the uneven bars champion at the 2014 Junior Olympics National NIT.
Galvin: “Raine displays a very pleasing artistic quality in her gymnastics. She will no doubt be a very successful college student-athlete.”
Madison Hargrave is on the competitive roster in 2017 after being unable to compete in 2016 as a result of injuries. She is from Westfield, Ind., and she trained at Sharp’s Gymnastics Academy under the guidance of Marvin Sharp.
Galvin: “At this point, she is definitely in our vault lineup as long as she’s healthy. Floor exercise is looking really strong for her as well.”
Khazia Hislop reigns from Concord, Mass., where she trained at Brestyan’s Gymnastics under the guidance of Mihai Brestyan. Hislop qualified for the Junior Olympic national team in 2013, 2014 and 2016.
Galvin: “Khazia has shown some really strong performances in the preseason on balance beam and on floor exercise.”
Emma Marchese enrolled at UNC in January after graduating from the Covenant Life Family Schools Program last month. She is from Rockville, Md., and she received her training at Hill’s Gymnastics under the direction of Kelli Hill.
Galvin: “Emma is very strong on balance beam. She was the Junior Olympic national champion last May. We feel that she can be really special on that event.”
Mikayla Robinson is a native of Chantilly, Va., and she also received her gymnastics training at Hill’s Gymnastics. She took second place on the vault and floor exercise at the 2016 State Championship.
Galvin: “Mikayla is looking really good on floor exercise and vault in the preseason.”
Mekyllah Williams comes to Chapel Hill, N.C., from Warner Robins, Ga., where she trained at South Gymnastics Academy under the direction of Elena Malone, Keri Morrin and Jessica Aragona. At the 2015 Georgia Level 10 State Championship, she placed in the top 10 of the vault, bars, floor and all-around.
Galvin: “She has put herself in a position where she could make the lineup on the uneven bars.”
UNC GYMNASTICS: 2016 SEASON
2016 Record: 5-12 (2-5 EAGL)
Regular Season Finish: 6th place in the EAGL; RQS of 193.220
Conference Finish: 4th place at EAGL Championships; 194.975
Kaitlynn Hedelund – Uneven Bars (9.900) & All-Around (39.150)
Morgan Lane – Uneven Bars (9.850), Balance Beam (9.950), Floor Exercise (9.900) & All-Around (39.400)
Madison Nettles – Vault (9.850), Uneven Bars (9.750), Balance Beam (9.800), Floor Exercise (9.650) & All-Around (38.625)
Christina Pheil – Vault (9.725), Uneven Bars (9.700), Balance Beam (9.625) & All-Around (38.800)
Lauren Weisel – Vault (9.650) & Floor Exercise (9.775)
Morgan Lane; All-Around & Balance Beam