College gymnastics season kicked off last week with many of the nation’s best programs competing in Las Vegas at Orleans Arena. The first ever season of ACC gymnastics started, as well. The gymnastics program addition at Clemson met the requirements for a league in the Atlantic Coast Conference - something that has been long awaited.
The season got its start for North Carolina as it hosted a quad meet featuring Ball State, Rutgers, and Utah State. Two Team HOP members stood out and starred in the meet. Lali Dekanoidze stuck a vault which earned her a personal best 9.925 which now ranks third in program history. Dekanoidze immediately followed that effort up with a very solid bar routine yielding a 9.825, which may be a modest score by her standards after last season’s All-American honors. However, the 9.825 score is very welcomed by the bars team. Noticeably, after the routine and salute, Dekanoidze walked off with a limp and sought the trainer and a chair. Lali stated after the meet that she was “good,” but that's something to keep an eye on considering it's only the first meet of the season and after the traumatic end to her historic 2022 freshman campaign. However, her efforts earned her the first ACC Gymnast of the Week, one of her many and growing accolades in the sport.
Lali’s long time teammate Gwen Fink, going back to the Southeastern Gymnastics days, had a stellar first meet. Gwen earned a 9.8 on vault, a 9.8 on uneven bars, and a 9.825 on beam. Fink was slated in the floor lineup but was a last minute strike, which we have to assume was a precautionary measure as the team could certainly have used her score. If performed as projected, it would have earned Fink the 1st All-Around title of the season building on the end of her 2023 season.
The anchor of Team HOP and also Southeastern Gymnastics, Hallie Thompson, competed on beam and unfortunately had to count a fall, but performed flawlessly after immediately hopping right back up on the apparatus. Thompson was unable to compete in the team’s intrasquad meet in December, so surely some rust was present. If anything is to be known about Hallie, she’s a warrior and will surely make all the adjustments.
The last nugget of the meet was the return of Scott Wilson, an assistant coach with Ball State, who was a longtime assistant with the North Carolina program. Scott and his Ball State team earned a convincing win over North Carolina and the other programs with a score of 194.925. Shout out to Scottie!
Final Results: (1) Ball Sate - 194.925, (2) North Carolina - 193.725, (3) Rutgers - 193.40, (4) Utah State - 193.175.