The Oregon Ducks Acrobatics & Tumbling team will be spotting a new sense of faith on its sideline this season.
On Tuesday night, the program drafted its newest teammate: 13-year-old Faith Gill through the nationwide nonprofit Team Impact.
“We are inducting a special athlete to our program, Faith,” head coach Keenyn Won said. “We are very excited to be officially signing her to our program today and to be a part of this program for years to come.”
Gill, from Springfield, Oregon, was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2016. According to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, the disease causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and can sometimes leave patches of diseased intestine.
Through Team Impact, which connects children facing chronic illnesses with collegiate athletics, Gill signed a letter of intent to become an official member of the Ducks’ Acrobatics and Tumbling team. She will attend Oregon practices, team events and be mat-side during meets this season.
Gill is the third Team Impact member Oregon has drafted in the past year. Baseball signed Eugene-native James Dahl last February and volleyball signed 8-year-old Danielle Bixby in August.
“She is going to teach us so much more than we are going to teach her,” Won said. “I know that the girls, it gives them something outside of the chaos of being a student-athlete. She has been really awesome and really excited to see our team.”
Over winter break, the Ducks got to know Gill through dates with the team, including gingerbread house making, campus tours and watching Christmas movies.
“Faith, we have enjoyed getting to know you and your family so much,” junior Katie Bachman told Gill during her draft day. “We are so excited for a great season to come with you and we are so excited that you are a part of our team.
Gill celebrated her draft day in front of a crowd consisting of her parents, her little sister Darby, her grandparents and all 34 of her new teammates.
After signing her letter of intent, one of Gill’s new teammates asked her who her favorite athlete was on the team. The crowd “oohed” as it got quiet, waiting for her response. Gill answered smartly with a grin, “Puddles,” which was followed by laughter from the team.
A chant of “Faith. Faith. Faith.” erupted from the team as its newest member stepped off the stage at the end of the ceremony. Smiling, Gill blushed as senior Hannah Blair ended the chant by saying, “Welcome to the family.”
With Faith on the sideline, the Oregon Ducks will open the 2019 season against Hawaii Pacific next Friday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena.
“She’s inspirational,” junior Payton Coon said. “Having her just as a part of our team, really means a lot to her, but also means a lot to us just to be able to have an impact on her life, and for her to impact ours probably a little bit more.”
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter: @maggie_vanoni