Let’s get to the point.
I have committed to the University of North Carolina with a full athletic scholarship!
A dream answered and a home found. Across seven schools, Carolina was the one for me. Here’s how I came to the decision.
Across my options, I had a mix of schools. From several Big Ten teams that are beginning to bring the heat, schools that are facing conference realignment, and schools that are vying for a national title.
One thing all of them had in common was the unknown of their potential. For whichever school I chose, I had to buy into what they were selling. College gymnastics—while constantly improving in talent, diversity, and resources—has a lot of parity where the rankings can change significantly year over year. A team that made the team final one year could drop below the top 20 soon after. So, rather than thinking about the “now” when making my decision, I had to consider the future.
On every poll I posted on social media, across all the quote tweets and comments, UCLA was the most popular choice for where others wanted me to go and where they thought I would choose. Prior to starting my recruiting process, UCLA was a dream school. I admired the diverse culture, incredible coaching staff, and legacy that UCLA has. And my visit was nothing short of memorable.
However, a couple key weaknesses slowly came into focus, with a major one being, well, majors. UCLA doesn’t have the major I hope to pursue in college. There was a roundabout way of getting that degree, but not a clear path. to.
Next, UCLA is far. Before this process, Jahzara Ranger, a class of 2024 Michigan commit, said that “distance can be scary, but really just follow what feels right especially when you start your visit.” This advice made me realize that location was a bigger contributor to my decision than I originally thought. I tried to think about my parents and “what ifs:” What if I needed to get home fast? How frequently could my parents visit? A five-hour plane ride wouldn’t suffice, and it seemed to add to the obstacles of attending UCLA.
Finally, I didn’t receive an offer. UCLA was a much slower recruiting process than other schools, mainly due to the fact that it runs on the quarter system. But, with time running out for the schools who had offered, I had to make a decision. I also didn’t want to feel like I was a second choice. Maybe if I had waited it out, I could’ve gotten one, but I didn’t want to take that time. By that point I already knew my answer.
On my Michigan State visit, my final of the seven, it finally clicked that UNC was home. Leading up to this visit, I was in a constant back and forth between UCLA and UNC. It was all I could think about. I reached out for help from a former college coach, my guiding angel, and she gave me three statements to consider:
- You can be anywhere on a good day. Look at the people that will be a part of your class, team, and coaches, and think about where you want to be on a bad day.
- If someone said, “Sorry. Nope. You can’t come here anymore,” which school would break your heart the most?
- Where can you see yourself loving the school and what you represent even over the coaches? Coaches can change, but a passion for the school—what you want to wear on your chest—that’s your legacy.
The third statement gave me goosebumps. For all of these statements, at the time, I didn’t really know my answer. I felt there was no true bad choice between the schools, and I didn’t have my heart set solely on one. I knew I had to break it down.
During my Michigan State visit, my mom and I returned back to the hotel after Midnight Madness, the school’s big basketball pep rally/season kick-off. While showering, the back-and-forth between UCLA and UNC once again ensued. But suddenly there was a moment, like you read in books, where my eyes widened and I felt the decision in my heart. I knew UNC was the one.
The coaching staff included all different personalities, each of which I loved. Danna Durante is a calm spirit, a person I knew I could go to with anything—especially for a good hug—and someone I know would support me for a lifetime, not just during my four years in Chapel Hill. Marie Denick has a fun energy about her. She’s confident, ambitious, and someone who can push me to the next level. Sami Durante and Mackenzie Caquatto-Jaworski are newer coaches, but it doesn’t show in practice or in their connection with me or other recruits. Sami was so much fun to be around; I still remember our car rides on my visit where we would have the most random discussions. I felt no hesitancy to chat with her like she was more than a coach. Mackenzie is one of the most loving and caring people I have ever met. Her experience as a Florida gymnast and values as a mother makes her an amazing coach, but even more so an amazing person.
Beyond the coaches, UNC just feels right. Every day since my decision, I’ve woken up with pride that one day I will be a Tar Heel and a part of the legacy the gymnastics program is building. But it’s not just the team. North Carolina has one of the best sports medicine programs, is ranked the No. 4 public university in the country and No. 1 in the South, and has incredible school pride. Plus, it has arguably the best colors of any college, renowned athletics, the prettiest campus I’ve ever seen, academics compared to that of the Ivies, and is home to legends like Michael Jordan.
On October 16 I had a video call with the UNC coaches. I was so excited that I finally knew where home was that I wanted to call them while still in Michigan! While unable to do that, it did give me time to think through what I wanted to say. I explained the shower story and concluded by saying that if the scholarship is still there, I would love to commit and become a Tar Heel!
Danna’s mouth dropped wide open, her arms went up into the air, and she got out of her seat and started jumping up and down, and the entire staff was thrilled, saying that of course the offer was still there. I’ll keep this moment in my head forever.
Through this entire process, they were so patient, always affirming that what they thought about me hadn’t changed and that they wanted me to be a part of their team. They never pressured, only supported. This made my decision feel even more right.
Though I didn’t know it before, UNC is my dream! It is simply perfect for me. I look forward to competing for the coaches, the girls, and the school, all of which I love. With so many great options, I was afraid I would regret my choice or constantly think of the “what ifs.” With UNC, I haven’t had any of those thoughts.
I’m sure that home is where the Tar Heels are.
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Article by Sydney Seabrooks