Fisk University has made history in many ways, notably through the activities of an array of great civic and political leaders, activists, and scholars, as well as the magnificent Fisk Jubilee Singers. But last week Fisk made history in a different sphere: that of athletic competition. When Fisk University’s gymnastics team took the mat, it was the first time in major college competition that an HBCU team appeared in a gymnastics meet.They were matched against North Carolina, Southern Utah and Washington. It was the Super 16 event in Las Vegas. It has been only 14 months since the sport was introduced at the school, and they are already competing in national events. 

The Bulldogs also showed they are ready to challenge for honors.  Naimah Muhammad, the leadoff gymnast, debuted on the floor and didn’t seem awed or scared by the environment or opponents. Her routine included ending with a double tuck. She got things off to a great start, and was embraced by her teammates and coaches. The event got Fisk coverage in almost every major newspaper, plus exposure on ESPN and FS1.

Head Coach Corrinne Tarver

It was just a little over a year ago that this team wasn’t even in existence. But their head coach Corrine Tarver had the vision and determination vital to success, and she raised a simple question to any prospective Fisk gymnast. “Do you want to make history?” “It’s humbling,” Tarver told ESPN ahead of the meet. “Something that’s a long time coming and so I’m so proud to be able to bring the team to the floor that is a historically Black college and university. It’s the first time ever so we’re ready to go.”

One of the team’s stars is an athlete who under other circumstances would now be at a predominantly white college or university. Morgan Price is the Bulldogs’ five-star recruit. In fact, Price had initially committed to Arkansas before switching to Fisk. She justified her reputation during the day’s events. competing on all four events and earning the meet’s highest score on vault with a 9.9, thanks to her stuck Yurchenko full.

Price, who previously told Sports Illustrated she had dreamed of being an HBCU gymnast even before there was a team, certainly understands the importance of the moment, the significance of the team, and her role in being an athletic trailblazer.

“It feels really cool,” Price told ESPN on Thursday. “We have a lot of eyes on us because we are the first and because we are making history, so it’s just so exciting to be a part of the first team ever.”Tarver said she was amazed by the warm welcome the team had received by their peers. They even got encouragement from some who weren’t in Las Vegas. The Stanford team posted a video on social media wishing the Bulldogs luck earlier in the day.

Though they didn’t come out on top in the meet, ultimately finishing fourth, there is little doubt that the Fisk team proved themselves winners. Although they finished in fourth place, with a score of 186.700., they ended up getting far more attention and exposure than Southern Utah (195.800), who narrowly topped Washington by 0.325 for first place.

The Bulldogs will next compete against the 2021 NCAA champion Michigan team on Jan. 13. Chances are by the end of the season they will make new gymnastics fans of numerous HBCU alumni and supporters. But more importantly, they have once again demolished any myths regarding what Black athletes and Black women can do in the world of sports.