Fisk University debuts as first HBCU team in NCAA gymnastics

When Fisk head coach Corrine Tarver first approached potential recruits, she launched with a simple question:

“Do you want to make history?”

On Friday, those who accepted their offer did just that — and Fisk became the first HBCU gymnastics team to compete at the NCAA level.

The Bulldogs faced North Carolina, Southern Utah and Washington in the Super 16 event in Las Vegas, making their much-anticipated debut just 14 months after the school originally announced the team’s formation.

Fisk wasted no time in making his presence known. At the start of the floor competition, Naimah Muhammad – the leading gymnast – showed no signs of nervousness, instead wowing the crowd with her great fall. She finished the routine with a double tuck and was greeted by her teammates and coaches as soon as she left the floor, and many, including Muhammad and Tarver, were in tears.

“It’s humbling,” Tarver told ESPN before the meeting. “Something that’s been a long time coming and that’s why I’m so proud to be able to bring the team to the ground, which is a historically black college and university. It’s the first time ever so we’re ready to go.”

Morgan Price, the Bulldogs’ five-star recruit who originally signed for Arkansas before joining Fisk, was the team’s strongest performance of the day. She took part in all four events and, thanks to her, achieved the highest score of the meeting in the vault Yurchenko full with 9.9.

Price, who previously told Sports Illustrated that she dreamed of becoming an HBCU gymnast even before there was a team, knew what the day meant for the sport.

“It feels really cool,” Price told ESPN on Thursday. “We have a lot of eyes on us because we’re first and because we’re making history, so it’s just so exciting to be part of the first team ever.”

Tarver said she was amazed at the warm welcome the team received from their peers — and even some who weren’t in Las Vegas did so publicly. The Stanford team posted a video on social media earlier in the day wishing them the best of luck.

Ultimately, Fisk placed fourth with a score of 186,700. Southern Utah (195,800) narrowly outperformed Washington by 0.325 points in first place.

The Bulldogs will next face off against the 2021 NCAA champion’s Michigan team on Jan. 13.

https://www.espn.com/olympics/gymnastics/story/_/id/35392354/fisk-university-debuts-first-hbcu-team-ncaa-gymnastics Fisk University debuts as first HBCU team in NCAA gymnastics

Emma Bowman

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