Arizona Gymnastics Meet Notes
What’s on Tap: The No. 14 Arizona women’s gymnastics team (0-6) will head north up Interstate 10 to take on intrastate rival No. 17 Arizona State (1-0) this Sunday. The meet is set to begin at 2 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz.
A Look Back: Despite a near perfect final rotation on the bars, the Arizona women’s gymnastics team (194.350) fell to then-No. 5 Alabama (196.150) and Penn State (194.875) in State College, Pa.
“Once again, this was a bittersweet performance,” Head Coach Bill Ryden said. “We dug ourselves such a hole after the first rotation on beam, but, to their credit, the team never gave up.”
The Wildcats best team score (49.300) since 2004 on the uneven parallel bars was not enough to overcome the Nittany Lions, who took second place. Veterans Aubrey Taylor, Danielle Hicks and Karin Wurm each earned second-place scores of 9.875 in the event. Arizona also received some clutch performances by freshmen Alexis Greene (9.850) and Sarah Parsons (9.825). Each individual score was a career-high mark, except for Taylor’s.
“Our bars team was outstanding,” Ryden said. “The freshmen really stepped up. Aubrey, Danielle and Karin did exactly what they needed to.”
The Wildcats got off to an inauspicious start on the balance beam, posting a team score of 47.350. Hicks led the squad with a score of 9.750. Junior Jamie Holton added a personal-best 9.625 in the event.
Arizona rebounded on the floor, with a team score of 48.725. Hicks again led the Wildcats with a mark of 9.775. Holton, Wurm and Taylor each added scores of 9.750, respectively.
The Wildcats continued to chip away at the competition on the vault. Competing in only their second collegiate meet, freshmen Greene and Bree Workman turned impressive marks of 9.875 and 9.850 to capture second and third-place in the event, respectively. Freshman Rachelle Silberg earned a score of 9.825, while Wurm tallied a 9.800.
In only her second all-around competition, Wurm earned a second-place total of 39.025. Hicks shared third place with a total of 38.975, while Taylor captured sixth place with a 38.550.
Arizona’s individual event scores bested the marks it posted last week in Cancun.
“The thing I am most proud of is that this team didn’t quit,” Ryden said. “After that first rotation, it would have been easy for them to roll over. They didn’t do that. We had three fantastic efforts in the last three events.”
“We’re such a young team that we’ve got a lot of things to learn,” Ryden added. “I’m not going to use that as an excuse. We’ve shown that we can compete with the best teams in the country in three events. We just have to sure up some things on the beam.”
The Rankings: The Wildcats were tabbed as the No. 14 in the nation following their performance at Penn State last week. Arizona’s team total of 194. 350 was the 11th-best score in the nation thus far. The squad’s average after two meets is 193.637. As a team, the Wildcats rank in the Top 20 in three of the four individual events, including No. 11 in the floor exercise, No. 4 on the uneven bars and No. 20 on the vault. Individually, Aubrey Taylor and Danielle Hicks are tied for No. 17 and No. 22 on the bars, respectively. The Wildcats began the year ranked No. 17 in the preseason coaches poll. Arizona has been ranked in 60 of the last 61 polls.
About the Rankings: Unlike other collegiate athletic rankings, collegiate gymnastic rankings are not based on wins and losses or votes. Gymnastic teams are ranked by their meet scores alone. Teams are ranked by their highest score from Jan. 9-15. From Jan. 16-Feb. 16, teams will be ranked by their total season average. Starting Feb. 20, teams and gymnasts will be ranked by a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS). An RQS is based on a team's top six regular-season scores, with three scores coming from away meets. To obtain the RQS, the team's or gymnast’s highest score is dropped and the remaining five scores are averaged.
Arizona Head Coach: Bill Ryden is in his eighth season at the helm of the Arizona gymnastics program, owning a school and career record of 93-109-3. Ryden made his head coaching debut at Arizona in 1998 and made his first appearance as a head coach at the NCAA Championships in 2002, the program’s first appearance since 1996. In 2002, Ryden also earned Pac-10 Conference Coach of the Year honors as well as South Central Regional Coach of the Year honors, becoming the first head coach in Arizona history to have earned Regional Coach of the Year honors. Additionally, Ryden has coached in 15 Pac-10 Championships, 12 NCAA Championships and 15 NCAA Regional meets. Ryden has also trained 12 All-Americans and 18 All-Pac-10 gymnasts in his tenure at Arizona.
About the Sun Devils: Arizona State enters the week as the No. 17 team in the nation following its season opening victory over Boise State last week (193.150-189.95) in Boise. In her first collegiate meet, freshmen Nicole Harris won the all-around with a total of 39.050, ranking her ninth in the nation this week, and also captured titles on the bars, beam and floor. The Sun Devil lineup also featured three other all-arounders, including veterans Ashley Kelly and April Boone. Kelly, a senior, and Boone, a junior, shared second-place honors with scores of 39.600, respectively. Freshman Tia Orlando scored a 36.950 in her first collegiate meet. As a team, Arizona State posted marks of 48.650 on vault, 47.700 on bars, 48.800 on beam and 48.000 on floor. The Sun Devils are coached by John Spini who is in his 26th season, holding a record of 306-117-2.
Throw the Records Out, For Now: While Arizona has yet to pick up a victory this season, it doesn’t mean the Wildcats have performed poorly. All six Wildcat opponents are ranked among the top 18 in the nation currently. Last week’s score of 194.350 was good enough for 11th in the country to date, falling to No. 7 Penn State and No. 4 Alabama. This week, however, the club will be looking to pick up a win. Obviously, you can only fall to so many teams ahead of you in the rankings and still expect to be among the nation’s top teams. This week’s meet will not only mark the beginning of Pac-10 competition, but it will also be Arizona’s first dual-meet.
Road Rules: By now, the Wildcats are used to competing on the road. After opening up in Cancun two weeks ago, the school’s first ever meet outside the U.S., the team headed to State College, Pa. While the team will again be on the road this week, it will only be a short 100 miles to Tempe up Interstate 10. Arizona will host its first meet of the year in McKale Center against California on Jan. 27.
Instant Impact: The Wildcats have called upon four freshmen to play key roles in various lineups only two meets into the season. In fact, the freshmen’s most significant contributions have come on one of the team’s highest scoring events, the bars. Briana Bergeson, (9.750), Alexis Greene (9.850) and Sarah Parsons (9.825) all gave tremendous routines on the bars to close out the meet at Penn State last week and help the Wildcats post their highest score in the event since 2004. Greene also performed well on the vault, earning a second-place mark of 9.875. She also added a 9.675 on the floor. Another freshmen, Bree Workman, performed nicely on vault, posting a third-place mark of 9.850.
Fresh Faces: At first glance, Arizona’s team scores on beam this season haven’t been very impressive (47.425 and 47.350). However, the reality is that four Wildcats made their first collegiate appearance in the beam lineup to being the season. Erin Muirhead turned in the lineup’s top score (9.600) in her debut down in Cancun. Karin Wurm earned a career-best in a 9.600 last week, marking the second time in her career she competed in all four events. Jamie Holton (9.675) also established a new personal best at Penn State. One of the Wildcats top beam workers a year ago, Danielle Hicks, recorded a season-high 9.750 to share fifth place a week ago.
Three’s A Crowd: Through the first two meets of the year, half of Arizona’s 24 routines have been performed by three gymnasts: Karin Wurm, Aubrey Taylor and Danielle Hicks. Wurm (39.025) made her second collegiate appearance as an all-arounder and captured her first-ever all-around title last week. Taylor (38.550) competed all-around for the second time this season, having not competed on vault a year ago. Hicks, who competed in the all-around six times last year as a freshmen, has remained a mainstay in all four lineups this year. She posted a season-high 38.975 last week.
Destination Corvallis: If all goes well, it is possible that the Wildcats will make three separate trips to Corvallis, Ore., this season. Arizona’s first scheduled trip to the Pacific Northwest is on Feb. 10, when the club will face the Beavers in regular season Pac-10 competition. Arizona will then travel back up the coast on March 25 for the Pac-10 Championships and could make a return trip if the team would advance to the NCAA Championships on April 20-22.
Facing the Best: Arizona always competes against some of the top programs in the nation year in and year out, and this season is no different. The Wildcats will face 12 of the nation’s Top 25 teams tabbed in the preseason coaches poll throughout the season, and 11 of which are currently ranked. The list includes No. 13 and defending Pac-10 champion UCLA, as well as No. 1 and defending national champion Georgia who the Wildcats faced in Cancun. Arizona also squared off with No. 4 Alabama last week and will face No. 10 Florida at home later in the year.
Stacked Pac: Once again the Pac-10 will be one of the toughest conferences in the country. Six teams are ranked after the first two weeks of the competition. Stanford leads the way at No. 5, followed by No. 13 UCLA, No. 14 Arizona, No. 21 Oregon State and No. 22 Washington. The same six teams were ranked in the preseason coaches poll. California is the lone team that remains unranked.
The Lone Senior: When a team graduates six seniors in one class, it usually means that the following year they will rely on a number of underclassmen. That certainly is the case this year for the Wildcats, but don’t tell that to senior Erin Muirhead. Muirhead, the team captain, looks to provide veteran leadership as she returns for her final season as a Wildcat. Coming off of a foot injury that cut short her season last year, Muirhead earned marks of 9.600 on beam and 9.675 on floor in Cancun. Last week, she scored a season-best 9.700 on floor. In her career, Muirhead has earned career high marks of 9.850 on the vault and 9.800 on the floor. Her appearance on beam was the first of her career.
Super Soph’s: Danielle Hicks, Karin Wurm and Rachelle Silberg all played vital roles on the Wildcat squad as freshmen. Now as sophomores, each are playing a prominent role in the Arizona lineups. Hicks made her seventh-straight all-around appearance dating back to last season, while Wurm made her debut as an all-around. Silberg again anchored the Wildcats vault lineup, scoring a 9.825 on vault.
Future Cats: Last November, Head Coach Bill Ryden announced the signing of three student-athletes who inked their names to National Letters of Intent to come to Arizona for the 2006-07 academic year. The future Wildcats are Brittney Morgan of Charlottesville, Va., Miranda Russell of Oshkosh, Wisc., and Jamie Custer of La Grange Park, Ill.
Looking ahead: The Wildcats will finally open their home slate next week against California. The meet is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. in McKale Center on Friday, Jan. 27. The Wildcats will remain at home the following week to take on Washington.