On a Friday night in Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, North Carolina, Pittsburgh was set to open the 2021 season. After missing the past two seasons due to injuries, both Katie Chamberlain and Katrina Coca were ready to go. Starting on bars, the duo put up back-to-back scores of 9.875 to lead the team on that event.
“It was probably one of the best, most euphoric feelings I’ve ever had,” Chamberlain, who hadn’t competed since the first meet of the 2019 season, said. “It felt really humbling to be able to do actual gymnastics again and compete in front of a crowd and compete for this team that means so much to me.”
Coca, a sixth-year who transferred from Kentucky after the 2019 season, hadn’t competed since the NCAA national semifinals in 2018.
“I had forgotten what it felt like because I had been out for so long,” Coca said. “So just getting to compete again was the most amazing thing ever.”
Despite being injured for the whole 2020 season, both Chamberlain and Coca were some of the team’s biggest supporters. Chamberlain’s role was to support her teammates and focus on her recovery.
“My role was supporting my teammates and creating a really positive, optimistic atmosphere for them to succeed,” Chamberlain said. “For myself, I was focused on getting better, not getting injured again and becoming stronger, so I don’t have the same thing happen to me again and preparing for the next season.”
With Coca having several years of competition experience before her injuries, her role was to inspire confidence in the younger athletes.
“I was on the sidelines, but I was keeping them pumped up, helping them get through the meet and helping them feel comfortable,” Coca said.
While it’s rare to see a sixth-year add a new event to her repertoire, Coca did just that, competing beam for the first time this season. She credits her team and head coach Samantha Snider’s support for building her confidence on that event.
“I was never really fully comfortable in that area, and with Sam’s and my teammates’ help, they built up my confidence,” Coca said.
Since her comeback after that first meet, Chamberlain has added two more events. She competed on beam the second meet and added vault for the third. Snider is excited to have the junior back healthy and contributing to the team.
“It’s very emotional for me when she’s competing because of all of the obstacles she’s had to overcome and the way she’s persevered through it all,” Snider said. “She is really just a beautiful gymnast to watch.”
Article by Mary Emma Burton
Like what you see? Consider donating to support our efforts throughout the year! [wpedon id=”13158″]