While the 2019 NCAA National Championships are all about gymnastics, gymnasts, coaches and fans laced up their running shoes to support a greater cause Saturday morning. Organized to support the Collegiate Gymnastics Growth Initiative, the Flippin’ 5K drew hundreds of fans and even more spectators as participants made the 3.1-mile loop around the arena.
Oregon State and Utah’s full teams lined the course to cheer on runners with high-fives and screams while individual competitors Sienna Crouse, Taylor Houchin, Abby Armbrecht and more toed the line. It was a who’s who of collegiate gymnastics, as everyone from California co-head coaches Liz Crandall-Howell and Justin Howell to Olympians Sam Peszek, Alicia Sacramone and Bridget Sloan ran in an effort to raise awareness and funds for the CGGI, which was first started “to promote the awareness in the pursuit and addition of new women’s collegiate gymnastics programs across the country.”
However, while the CGGI supports the potential creation of collegiate gymnastics teams anywhere, there was an even more special focus at this event, drawing special attention to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, thanks to title sponsor Essence Magazine.
“When I was looking at colleges, my sister went to a HBCU—she went to Tuskegee Institute—and I wanted to go to one too, but they didn’t have gymnastics,” Denver alumna Nina Magee, the 2016 NCAA floor champion, said. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to do gymnastics, to do something you love.”
For Corrine Wright, a Georgia alumna who was the first African-American to win the national all around title, college wasn’t a feasible option. But gymnastics was her avenue to making it happen. “My mom did what she could—a lot of sacrifice financially. I know for a lot of people it can be, but it was worth it,” she said.
But it’s not just providing more opportunities. It’s about having those successful black athletes on college teams to act as role models for the generations to come. “I do everything I can to be a role model for girls younger than me, and like [others were] for me when I was little so that one day everyone can have the same opportunities and experiences that I have,” Elizabeth Price, Stanford alumna and 2015 vault and 2018 bars national champion, said.
Whether it’s supporting the initiative to bring collegiate gymnastics to HBCUs or working to grow the sport as a whole, this—the Flippin’ 5K, the CGGI—is just the beginning.
“We’ve only touched the surface of what college gymnastics is going to do over the next many years,” Alabama head coach Dana Duckworth said. “And all of you can make a difference by continuing to contribute and kick butt.”
Article by Elizabeth Grimsley
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