The Wildcats, who are ranked No. 16 in the nation entering the season, will begin competition on Friday, January 12, at Michigan State.
The Arizona Wildcats have a number of goals for the 2007 season, but none is more important than their primary focus: get to the NCAA Championships in
Leading the Wildcats will be Aubrey Kelly and Karin Wurm, who both got a taste of NCAA Championship competition in 2006 as individual qualifiers. They each got a glimpse of all the excitement and hoopla that surrounds such an event, and they hope to return this season with the rest of their teammates.
Kelly, a 5-2 senior from
Junior Karin Wurm (top) and senior Aubrey Kelly (bottom)
Kelly is joined by Jamie Holton as the only other senior on the team. Holton, a 5-5 senior from
“They both look great,” head coach Bill Ryden said of his two senior captains. “Aubrey looks like a million bucks and Jamie is pretty impressive herself. I’m confident in the ability of the seniors to be there on opening night and put up some pretty big numbers. They are doing a great job of leading the team and setting an example.”
Looking to assume more of a leadership role this season will be Wurm, who emerged as
“Karin had an amazing year last year,” said Ryden. “Her abilities and what she can bring to the table are unlimited. Right now, we just want to her back to where she was at the end of last year.”
Wurm’s classmate, Danielle Hicks, was the team’s third all-arounder last season. It is a role she will not be able to fulfill this year, as a shoulder injury, which will require surgery after the season, will keep her out of the bars lineup. Hicks is expected to be a mainstay in the other three events.
Rachelle Silberg rounds out the junior class, and will again be counted on to provide the consistency and experience she brings each meet to the vault lineup.
Behind the juniors and seniors is a strong sophomore class that was thrown into action and counted on early for scoring throughout their freshmen seasons. Alexis Greene, Briana Bergeson, Bree Workman and Suzanne Alvey headed a group that surprised many with their ability to make an immediate impact. They will be counted on to step up their abilities even more this season. Erica Anderson also returns after appearing twice in exhibition performances a year ago. Additionally, Melanie Weiser, who redshirted in her freshman season of 2005, returns, but is recovering from a knee injury sustained during the fall.
Another name to keep an eye on is redshirt freshman Sarah Specht, who missed nearly all of last season with an elbow injury. Coming into the program, she was perhaps the most talented of last year’s freshman bunch. This year she will finally get the opportunity to showcase her skills in a competitive environment, something she hasn’t been able to do in nearly two years.
“Sarah is really coming back,” said Ryden. “We never got to know how good she was last year. She is doing some very, very good gymnastics on every event. She is regaining all of her old skills that were the reason we recruited her.”
In addition, the Wildcats welcome three new freshman to the mix, including Jamie Custer, Brittney Morgan and Miranda Russell. All three seem to have the potential to contribute where needed this season, and have made tremendous progress during the fall.
“The freshmen are still feeling their way,” said Ryden. “But they are farther along right now than last year’s freshmen.”
There are still some question marks heading into the 2007 season, but not nearly as many as a season ago. With strong leadership from the upperclassmen and the expected continued improvement of the underclassmen, this season could be a special one for Arizona Gymnastics. As with any season, however, injuries are the one variable that is difficult to account for.
“Potentially, if we stay healthy, we can be a very good team,” said Ryden. “As long as we don’t run into any bad luck, we’ll be okay. I like the way this team has developed over the last year.”
The Wildcats look to be in great shape on vault with every significant contributor from a year ago returning. In fact,
“The vault team is ready to go,” said Ryden. “They have done a lot of very difficult vaulting very early in the season. I’m not worried about putting out a vault team. I think it’s going to be one of our primary scoring events.”
With experienced vaulters like Wurm, Kelly, Holton, Silberg, Hicks, Workman and Greene, plus Specht who looks to factor in this season, the coaching staff has plenty of options to turn to. Kelly could prove to be the most improved, as she has added a very difficult vault this season.
“Aubrey looks fantastic,” said Ryden. “She is working on a very difficult skill that no one in college is doing. Karin also looks very good right now.”
Behind them, sophomores Alvey, Bergeson and Greene return with a year’s wroth of experience. Specht also is challenging for a spot in the lineup, as are Russell and Morgan from the freshman class.
Senior Jamie Holton and junior Danielle Hicks
One event that the Wildcats have far fewer questions on than a year ago is on the balance beam. Last year,
Hicks and Bergeson are two outstanding beam workers that will pace the Wildcats throughout the year. Kelly has also looked strong throughout the fall, as has Holton. Wurm is expected to return to form by the time the season rolls around, but has been slowed in workouts slightly.
“It will be an event we have more depth on this year than in the past,” said Ryden. “But being one of the two fall events, we have to make sure we are consistent.”
Beam is perhaps the one event the freshman class could make its most significant impact on. Morgan, a two-time Junior Olympic beam champion, will immediately add talent and competitive experience to the event. Her classmate, Russell, also looks to add depth to
Like vault, the floor exercise will have only one question: which six gymnasts will compete each week?
“We have a lot of depth on floor,” said Ryden. “We should be a very good floor team. They have been doing some great tumbling in the gym.”
Looking to solidify spots in the lineup will be Greene and Bergeson. Both competed on floor last year, with Bergeson making her debut in the NCAA North Central Region championships. Workman and Alvey also will try to crack the lineup. But, once again, Specht could surprise everyone with her abilities.
“She is doing some of the biggest tumbling in our gym,” said Ryden of Specht. “We are just waiting to see what she can do in a competitive setting.”
Last year, Wurm, Kelly and Hicks were mainstays in all four events. Together, the trio combined to perform 152 of the team’s 312 (48.7 percent) routines in 2006. Wurm competed as an all-arounder in every meet, while Hicks and
“They are better as all-arounders,” said Ryden. “Karin actually scores higher on her other three events when she does all four events. It sounds weird, but Monica Bisordi was the same way. When you take away one event, do nothing with the other events, and those other events are going to be lower scores. Some girls just have it in their mind that they are all-arounders. Aubrey and Karin are those type of girls.”
Depending on her continued progress, Specht could compete in all four events at some point during the season as could Greene.