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History-making college gymnastics team to compete at William & Mary

Fisk University is the first HBCU to have a gymnastics team competing at the NCAA level.

NORFOLK, Va. — The first gymnastics team at a Historically Black College or University competing at the NCAA level will take on William & Mary Sunday.

Fisk University will visit this weekend and for the team's assistant coach, that means coming home.

When Kourtney Chinnery was a gymnastics dynamo in high school growing up in Hampton, going to an HBCU was not an option if you wanted to compete at the college level.

She landed at Penn State on a full scholarship.

Now, it gives her so much pride to be coaching as an assistant for the nation's first HBCU gymnastics team competing at the NCAA level.

Credit: Kourtney Chinnery
Kourtney Chinnery, a Penn State alumna, is the assistant coach for Fisk women's gymnastics

"I feel I'm learning a lot. I am able to positively contribute to those around me each day, but I think that I haven't necessarily conceptualized the magnitude of how many we've touched, how many lives we've touched with this experience so far," she said.

For freshman Aaliyah Reed-Hammon, being on the team is like a dream come true.

"Before it was like, 'I'm just doing gymnastics.' But now I'm doing gymnastics for like, the little girls, like African-American little girls in gymnastics."

Fisk head coach Corrinne Tarver -- once a University of Georgia stand-out who became the first gymnast to win the NCAA all-around title -- had four months to build a team from the ground up. She sees her role as more than coaching. 

"We can inspire more to have a higher self-esteem and believe in themselves and believe that they are capable of doing more," she said.

When the team takes to the floor, vault, bars, and beams, the athletes will compete against a William & Mary team making history itself. When head coach Kelsey Hinton got the job in 2019, she was one of two African American female head coaches in Division I gymnastics. 

Chinnery is so excited to be coaching in her home of Hampton Roads and expects many family members to come to see her shine. 

The competition kicks off at 2 p.m. on February 19 on the William & Mary campus. 

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