Fisk University becomes first HBCU to compete in gymnastics at NCAA level

The Fisk University women's gymnastics team continues to break barriers. (Source: WSMV)
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 4:01 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - When Fisk University Gymnastics Coach Corinne Taver began to build her roster back in Spring 2022, she opened her conversation with recruits by asking them one simple question.

“Do you want to make history?”

A little less than one year later, on Jan. 6, 16 women did just that.

The second Fisk University flipped onto the gymnastics scene, they have taken the world by storm.

“I loved that aspect of being able to take something that’s never been done and make it happen, but not just making it happen but making it amazing and making it spectacular,” Tarver said. “People stand up and watch.”

The Fisk University gymnasts are the first Historically Black College/University gymnastics program to compete at the National Collegiate Athletic Association level.

“I remember when we were walking out in Vegas, I was like it almost brought me to tears,” said Liberty Mora, a freshman at Fisk University. “We were the last people to walk out and obviously our crowd is going to cheer for us, but seeing everybody else here for us and just supporting us it was a very overwhelming and exciting feeling.”

Tarver has been no stranger when it comes to making history. In 1989, she was the first black gymnast to win the NCAA all-around championship. Over 30 years later, she was ready to break yet another barrier.

“It is a challenge,” Tarver said. “I love a challenge. Starting a program from scratch or as a HBCU I know makes it significant and historic, so that was also pretty exciting. I’ve done that a lot in my gymnastics career.”

The program may be less than a year old, but it has already managed to make a significant footprint.

“We knew that we were going to get coverage,” Mora said. “People are going to notice, but we didn’t think it would be this big.”

Mora went on to say that the fact that the gymnastics program really blew up to be this big was also kind of scary.

“We’re so embracing the love from everybody else that it’s comforting,” Mora said.

Being the first HBCU gymnastics team wasn’t the only reason for the attention. The team has star studded talent as well.

Lebanon native Morgan Price decommitted from Arkansas to compete at Fisk. Price won the all-around championship at the University of Georgia’s quad meet beating athletes from Georgia, Ohio State and Rutgers.

“We have athletes go out there and beat big time schools in the all round or in events showing we’re not just an HBCU team,” Tarver said.

The inaugural season is just the beginning for those 16 who hope to open the door for other HBCUs to tumble in their footsteps. Just last week, Talladega College, another HBCU located in Alabama, announced it would be adding a gymnastics program.

“We’re here to make an impact on the world,” Mora said. “We’re here to be the representation in the sport of gymnastics that don’t quite see in a lot of other schools.”