When Sahara Gipson transferred from Rutgers University after she walked onto the team as a freshman in 2014-15, she knew who she’d call first.
Coach Umme Salim-Beasley worked at Rutgers as an assistant coach from 2012-15 before she got hired as Temple’s coach in April 2015. She had to replace eight graduating gymnasts and had scholarships to award. Gipson, a junior all-around, said having the chance to compete for Salim-Beasley is one of the main reasons she chose Temple after transferring.
“She was familiar with me because I coached her during her freshman year,” Salim-Beasley said. “When I came to Temple, it seemed like it was going be a good fit for her to be able to come along with me.”
“The transition from Rutgers to Temple wasn’t necessarily my choice at first,” Gipson said. “My parents were pushing me to make that decision, but after a while it ended up being a really great opportunity.”
At Rutgers, Gipson’s specialty was the vault, where she competed in every meet. She scored a 9.85 at the Big Ten Conference Championships on March 21, 2015 to help Rutgers achieve its second-highest program score on vault at the time. The mark is still her career-high.
Once Gipson came to Temple, Salim-Beasley and the Owls’ coaching staff trained her to become an all-around gymnast. In her sophomore season, Gipson won individual event titles on bars and vault at the West Chester University quad meet and won the beam title against the College of William & Mary.
“Last year was her first year competing all-around,” Salim-Beasley said. “She was really an event specialist at Rutgers, so coming in last year was her first taste of competing in every event.”
She set a career high on bars with a score of 9.75 at the Ken Anderson Memorial Invitational in 2016 and finished with an overall average score of 9.667 at the end of the season. Gipson set a career-high score against her former school on the beam with a 9.725 on Feb. 20, 2016.
“I wasn’t an all-around gymnast at all freshman year,” Gipson said. “To finally do that last year was great.”
This season, Gipson tied her career-high beam mark at the Ken Anderson Memorial Invitational on Feb. 4 at McGonigle Hall. That same day, she also set a personal record on the floor with a 9.8. Gipson’s all-around score of 38.775 at Towson University’s Shelli Calloway Invitational on Feb. 12 is also a career-high. Gipson said it was her first meet of the season in the all-around.
The former specialist is now achieving high marks in several events.
“She has done a very good job of fighting into lineup spots, considering that we have a lot more depth this season,” Salim-Beasley said. “It’s a lot more competitive to get into lineup spots. It’s definitely more of an emphasis on consistency this season.”
Varun Sivakumar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.