Arizona Gymnastics head coach Bill Ryden reviews the first four weeks of competition and looks ahead to the rest of the season.
Q: Now that you are four weeks into the season, how would you sum up your first four meets?
“It’s definitely been a trial by fire. I don’t know if anyone has had a tougher first few weeks than we have. It’s not exactly what I had hoped for when I put the schedule together, but now that I look back it’s not such a bad thing. To be ranked No. 10 with this young of a team is a surprise for sure, but a pleasant surprise.”
Q: After the first three weeks of last season, even with six seniors, you had a 6-3 record and had not scored over a 194.000. This year after three meets, you had not earned one victory, but had already scored over 195.000. How important are wins and losses versus the scores you post each meet?
“Wins and losses are a secondary concern other than for my own ego (laughs). To be ranked No. 3 in the country on bars is really impressive. When I compare us to what we’ve seen this year nationally, we could be in a very strong position come postseason.”
Q: After competing on the road with the 2005 national champion and runner-up as well as two other teams that were in last year’s NCAA Championships, what are your expectations heading into the next few weeks?
“I think we’re in the right ballpark. What is important to us right now is how we do our gymnastics. We’re not going to run into anything that we haven’t seen. We have seen the best there is, bar none. This is definitely a performance sport. We have to live up to the level we want to be at.”
Q: Overall, can you compare the scoring differences from 2005 to 2006 and explain the new “Up to the level of competition” rule that has been enforced this year? What changes have you had to make?
“There are additional requirements which have made us and all teams re-work some routines. Everyone is having to be more aware of what judges are looking for. Our team has learned a bunch of new passes on floor. We have decided to up the difficulty of our routines with a lot of our athletes. We are attacking the rule from the standpoint that we want to achieve a higher level of gymnastics rather than re-work it from the easiest ways possible.”
Q: Who do you see making an impact over the next month?
“We’re hopeful that Bree (Workman) can start making a larger impact. She had some issues with activity related asthma and we’re trying to make sure everything is okay medically with that and that she is comfortable. If she can control it, she certainly can make a big difference for us. Aubrey Taylor, Karin Wurm and Danielle Hicks have really been solid this year. The freshmen are getting more adjusted to the student-athlete life, the travel and the pressure that comes with competing at this level. They will continue to grow throughout the year. Depth is our downfall, no doubt, so anyone that can step up will certainly help out.”
Q: What is the status of freshman Sarah Specht?
“It finally seems like the light at the end of the tunnel. For so long she couldn’t straighten her arm out. But she had surgery on it a couple of weeks ago and that was a big breakthrough. She was our number one freshman gymnast coming in, and to possibly have her back is a great thing. The question I will have to face is what to do with her once she gets back to gymnastics status. Do we burn a year of eligibility once she is ready to go? She is a great gymnast and we are all very hopeful about her future.”