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Fisk University’s gymnastics team officially made its debut on Friday.
The team participated in the Super 16 event in Las Vegas against top schools like UCLA, the University of Washington, Stanford University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia, amongst others.
Known as the “biggest regular-season women’s collegiate gymnastics event,” the inaugural Super 16 two-day event had over 300 gymnasts who are part of the 2023 season compete in a series of events. The competition included a variety of bar, beam and floor routines to help the judges decide on ratings. Of the 16 teams, Fisk University’s team finished fourth behind teams like the University of Georgia and Stanford with a score of 186.700.
With their participation in the meet, the new gymnastics team became the first to appear in a National Collegiate Athletic Association, also known more simply as the NCAA, competition as a team from a historically Black college or university.
The Super 16 event will be the first of many tournaments for the Fisk University gymnastics team; they’re planning to compete against 2021 national champions from the University of Michigan on Jan. 13.
“It’s great to be the first HBCU,” said the head coach of the gymnastics team of the HBCU, Corrine Tarver, per new outlet News One. “What it does is open up opportunities for girls who want to have an HBCU experience and do gymnastics at the same time because it just wasn’t something that was an option before.”
Although the new Fisk University gymnastics team is the first HBCU team for young Black women to compete in, Black women have already been making history in gymnastics at a professional level. Known as the most decorated U.S. women’s gymnast in history, superstar athlete Simone Biles has won a total of 32 World/Olympic medals in her career.
Just this past September, history was made as gymnasts Konnor McClain, Shilese Jones and Jordan Chiles won first, second and third place, respectively, at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, becoming the first three Black gymnasts to make up an entire podium.
With the success of Black gymnasts such as Biles and Gabby Douglas, there’s been an overall increase in participation in the sport by Black women in the past decade. According to a 2021 report by AP News, almost 10% of scholarship athletes in the Division 1 level of the NCAA are Black women. The percentage is a three percent uptake from the seven percent that made up the division in 2012.