The last few years have brought a new level of exposure for collegiate gymnastics. While there has been intercollegiate competition for decades, viral videos and powerful, expressive floor routines have brought unprecedented interest to the sport. When Long Island University (LIU) launched its gymnastics program in 2020, it provided opportunities for student-athletes eager to combine their sport with stellar academics.

“I wanted to be part of a new experience and I wanted to see what being on a new team and joining a new program would be like,” said junior Jah’Liyah Bedminster. “Since LIU is a new program, we’ve been a part of the next step forward into bringing a bigger audience to collegiate gymnastics. I feel very grateful to be a part of that.”

Over the past few years, collegiate gymnasts have received attention for floor routines with social justice messaging, as well as music and choreography reflective of stepping and hip-hop. “With the NIL (name, image and likeness) deals, people are seeing more on social media, so they can bring an audience to watch their floor routines and they can express,” said Bedminster, who selected music from the film “Black Panther” for her floor routine. “When I do my routine, I feel like I have so much power. The movie inspired me to be a strong floor performer.”

Alana Ricketts doesn’t do floor routines—she focuses on beam and vault—but said, “I love that college gymnasts have more freedom to express themselves and show what things mean to them through their dance movements.”

LIU’s season wraps up this weekend at the EAGL Conference Championships. Both are pleased with the progress they’ve seen this year. “I think as a team, we have really progressed; you can see that with each meet that we do,” said Ricketts. “Personally, I also feel like I grew a lot this season. I’m ready to see what’s to come.”

Bedminster is a biology major with a premed concentration. Her plan is to go to medical school and become a surgeon. Ricketts is an English major with a concentration in writing. Her goal is to go into publishing and be an editor, and she hopes to do an internship this summer. Both feel being student-athletes has given them discipline, focus, and persistence.

“I know I’m going to get the job done when I need to,” said Bedminster. 

“Through sport, we’ve learned a lot of transferrable skills that we can use in our lives,” said Ricketts.

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