History has been made, folks!
Fisk University’s gymnastics team had their first meet on January 6, 2023 at the Super 16 Invitational in Las Vegas and officially became the first HBCU gymnastics squad to compete in an NCAA organized event. And peep this. One of their gymnasts earned the highest score of 9.9 on the vault—which was the highest score of the entire meet. While the squad came in last place of this meet, they won something else: showing everyone Black girls can do ANYTHING—and do it well.
While many people rave about the brilliant, aerodynamic, and stellar Simone Biles—and before her, Gabby Douglas—girls of this new generation didn’t really see gymnastics and Black girls being two things that could go together. Generations before saw the pioneering Dominique Dawes, a three-time Olympian and first Black person to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. They also got a chance to witness Dionne Foster, the first elite gymnast from Alabama as a 13-year-old and a member of the 1991 NCAA Championship Gymnastics team, and even more Black gymnasts from the 1990s and early 2000s. Now people of this generation are able to see girls who look like them do gymnastics representing schools that were built for Black people.
Before Fisk, there was never an HBCU that launched a gymnastics team due to the costs of supporting a program with minimal revenue return. It’s reported the University of Minnesota spent more than $1.3 million dollars on their gymnastics program in 2020.
The idea of this team’s birth is actually one that shows the initiative and strength of a Black girl and determination of HBCU alums with recruiting new generations to their illustrious alma maters. Jordynn Cromartie, a current Fisk freshman, had the idea to create a gymnastics team at Fisk University after her uncle—a Fisk alum and Board of Trustee member—convinced her to consider HBCUs over a Power Five School.
"[I told my uncle] I've spent my own life trying to make it on a collegiate gymnastics team so I wouldn't come to Fisk unless they had a program or something for me to do," Cromartie said to ABC News. "During that conversation he was like, 'Watch me make it happen.'" He petitioned for the Board to look into what it would take to create the program, and they made it happen.
After an organization called “Brown Girls Do Gymnastics” connected Fisk University to Corrine Tarver, Fisk made a phone call to Tarver, who is the first Black gymnast to win an NCAA all-around title in 1989. She became the head coach, excited about building the first program of its kind. And after a lot more hard work that Fisk hasn’t revealed yet, the program was born. I think its conception and birth into reality is nothing short of spectacular, and it’s a living testament to the unassailable truth that Black people can do ANYTHING we set our minds to – and also the fact that HBCU alums handle business when it comes to their alma maters.
The sky isn’t the limit for what this Fisk gymnastics team can do. Based on their performances at the Super 16 Invitational, with Morgan Price scoring a 9.9 on vault and a 9.7 on bars along with Kira Richmon scoring a 9.7 on floor, this squad’s performance trajectory is sky-high. But the representation these girls will show to everyone will be invaluable. They are living proof Black girls from Black institutions can be gymnasts And successful ones at that. I am excited to see them show the entire world what they can do for this 2023 season and beyond.
While everyone is looking forward to their future, I’m taking the time to call them what they are now: trailblazers.