(NEW YORK) — Fisk University has made history by becoming the first historically Black university gymnastics team to compete at the NCAA level.
The Bulldogs debuted at the Super 16 event in Las Vegas on Jan. 6 against North Carolina, Southern Utah and Washington, ultimately placing fourth, according to ESPN reporting. Next, the team will face Michigan, the 2021 NCAA champion, on Jan. 13.
The university announced the formation of a women’s gymnastics program only a little over a year ago. What got the ball rolling was a conversation last year between Fisk University gymnast Jordynn Cromartie and her uncle.
Cromartie, a freshman, told ABC News that her uncle, who is a Fisk alum, was trying to convince her to go to his alma mater, but she said she couldn’t because she was looking at schools with a gymnastics program.
“[I told my uncle] I’ve spent my own life trying to make it on a collegiate gymnastics team so I wouldn’t come to Fisk unless they had a program or something for me to do,” said Cromartie. “During that conversation he was like, ‘Watch me make it happen.’”
Only a few months later, it happened. Head coach Corrinne Tarver, known as the first Black gymnast to win an NCAA all-around title in 1989, spoke to ABC News about building the team from the ground up.
“It’s pretty exciting, but also a longtime coming… It’s one of those things that people already thought was already there,” said Tarver. “However, it’s here now and that’s what’s important.”
Cromartie, whose main focus this year is floor and beam since she’s still recovering from a surgery in April, said it feels “surreal” to be part of the team.
“I feel like I still don’t know how much of an impact we’re making on the world,” said Cromartie. “It’s going to be really fun in the future to see what happens.”
Tarver said the team’s goal this season is to leave “everything on the mat.” Larger, she said she hopes the team will inspire more diversity within NCAA gymnastics.
“Well honestly I want the team to go out there every single competition, do the best that they are capable of doing,” said Tarver. “Overall I am hoping that we are a blueprint for other HBCUs to add a gymnastics program.”
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