There was no crowd to be hushed in the empty gymnasium as Taos High School Senior Ciara Murphy stepped onto the mat for her floor routine at the 2021 NM USAG gymnastics state meet (Level 9 senior division) on March 27. The meet was entirely virtual, with judges watching over Zoom. But if there had been a crowd in attendance, they would've fallen silent. Murphy had been a force in New Mexico gymnastics since she first hit the scene her freshman year, making it all the way to the Western National Championships. Now she was taking to the floor for the final routine of her gymnastics career.
Murphy eyed the floor, carefully backed her feet to the edge of the blue mat, and snapped her heels together like Dorothy trying to make her way back to Kansas. She clapped her hands, sending up a cloud of white powder as the music started. Then Murphy exploded onto the mat, doing what she does best: gymnastics.
At the end of the day, she stood, yet again, on the medal stand, with gold in her hand. The Taos native placed first in the floor exercise, the balance beam and the All-Around.
Murphy's talent may be easy and abundant, but her road was not.
"I made it to the Western National Championships [freshman year] and I placed there and it was such a great experience," Murphy said. "I was on top of the world. But then, sophomore year, things got hard."
Murphy was still young and new to the level of competition she was facing. To make it even more difficult, she began training with the Level 10 gymnasts--the highest level offered by High Altitude gymnastics, where Murphy trained. Then, a week before the State Championships, she dislocated her elbow and had to sit out.
"I had a pretty rough four-month recovery," she said. "Plus, during that period, the [High Altitude gymnastics] coaches moved away. I was left with a choice to either quit or move and train at a new gym."
But Murphy's talent was a problem. There wasn't a facility or staff locally who was equipped to handle the level of training she needed. In the end, Murphy found herself commuting between Taos and Albuquerque, staying with a host family, and training with every second of free time.
"I was still healing from my injury, but I wasn't ready to give up on the dream I had from the time I was a little girl," she said.
It was a long, slow road, but in the end, Murphy prevailed.
"I think Ciara's sports story is pretty amazing," said Murphy's mother, Paige Gerling, trying hard to keep from bursting with pride. "She has hung in there despite a potential career-ending injury, her coaching moving away, and COVID, and was able to finish gymnastics through her senior year. That in and of itself is quite a feat in the sport. Finishing her career as State Champion was pretty amazing."
Murphy said her journey in gymnastics is now over. She does not intend to pursue it when she attends college in the fall. Though she isn't sure what she wants to major in yet, she said she is looking at Biomedical Engineering or Neuroscience.
As for athletics, Murphy said she intends to keep it simple.
"Maybe I'll get back into running."