Dear Friends, Alumni & Boosters,
Welcome Back After a long summer, everyone is back and getting ready for a new season. The team is really looking pretty good after a month of voluntary workouts followed by official practice. The team is definitely ahead of where we have been in the past at this time of the year. Let me introduce you to this year’s team:
Jamie Holton is an Arizona native hailing from Phoenix. Jamie had a sensational junior year, earning Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week Honors and the award for most Community Service hours in the entire athletic department. She was also named an Academic Champion. Jamie was a major contributor on Vault, Beam and Floor in spite of recovering from shoulder surgery. She was voted Most Improved by the staff for her efforts. She is looking great in the gym and I believe will have a great senior season on all three of her events. Look for an upgraded floor routine as well as her 9.8+ Beam and Vault.
Aubrey Kelly: It is kind of weird for me to type the name Kelly. Aubrey spent her summer training, working, having voluntary ankle surgery and getting married! No disrespect to Jesse but she will always be Taylor to me. Aubrey is one of our two senior gymnasts. She came to us from Burlington, Ontario but her recent nuptials have made Tucson her home. Aub had a great season last year as she was one of our three all-around athletes; earning Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week honors. She qualified to the NCAA championships by winning the North Central Regional Bar title. She was also named Academic All-conference. Aubrey is looking fantastic in the gym and has already learned a new 10.0 Vault and working to upgrade her already great bar routine. Aubrey is determined to have a great senior campaign and I am sure she will be a major contributor on all four events.
Danielle Hicks, a junior from Oshawa, Ontario, was one of our three all-around athletes from last season. Danielle had a great second season despite fighting shoulder and back injuries. I’m afraid that her shoulder injury will keep her out of Bars this season but I am confident that she will be a major player in our team score on the other three events. Danielle doesn’t really have a weak event and she has anchored our Beam team for the last two seasons. She is already upgrading her routines and I know that she will be just as important to our team effort on three events as she was last year on four. Danielle was also named Academic All-Conference last season. Following the completion of last season, Danielle was voted the team MVP.
Rachelle Silberg is a junior and calls Calgary, Alberta home. Rachelle was a consistent member of the Vault team last season. She performed two different 10.0 valued vaults in her efforts to help the team in every way possible. Rachelle trains every event and is working hard to make the line-up on another event. Her vaults are looking extremely good right now and I expect her to once again have an impact on that lineup. Rachelle has always been outstanding in the classroom and her efforts last year earned her Academic Champion honors, Academic All-Conference and Academic All-American.
Melanie Weiser is also a junior and came west to the U of A from Manhattan, KS. Melanie got her first taste of the competition floor last season when she performed an exhibition floor routine in Texas. She had off-season surgery on her ankle and is working hard to make sure that she gets another chance to perform in front of the GymCat faithful.
Karin Wurm is from Landenberg, PA and is one of our many East Coast gymnasts to make the trip west to the warmth of the sun. After a very solid campaign as a freshman competing three events, Karin established herself last year as a national caliber all-arounder. She competed on every event in every meet and was a top scorer on each of them. She completed her breakout season by qualifying as the #3 seeded All-Around competitor to the NCAA Championships. Not just a great athlete, Karin is also an honors student. She is an Academic Champion and was named Academic All-American, Academic All-Conference and CoSIDA Academic All-District VIII. For her efforts, she received the Jim Gault Coaches Award from the staff. Determined to make her junior year even better, Karin trained very hard all summer and is looking to upgrade her already excellent routines. I look for her to continue to be one of our main contributors on every event and have another outstanding season.
Suzanne Alvey calls Atlanta home and is the resident comic on the team. Suzanne’s main focus for her freshman year was competing on the Bar team and backing up the other events. Suzanne is a tireless worker and is determined to improve all her events and make more of an impact on the lineup this season. Last year, Suzanne dealt with a several bouts of illness/injury that really hampered her progress and ability. This year she is totally healthy and she looks it. I have been very impressed with her improvement everywhere and I believe that she will be much more of a contributor to the team success.
Erica Anderson came to us from Columbus, OH. Erica spent the last season working hard on her routines and backing up the team on vault. She made her collegiate debut at our meet in Denton, TX. Erica is working very hard to improve all of her routines and challenge for a spot in this year’s lineup.
Briana Bergeson, or “Beamer” as her teammates and the GymCat faithful know her, traveled the shortest distance to join the program. She hails from Gilbert, AZ, right up I-10. Beamer had a very good freshman campaign. She is an amazing beam worker and quickly made an impact on the lineup and team score on that event. She also was main part of the Bar team as her consistency was a big boost to the team. Her biggest moment may have been when she stepped into the floor lineup at Regionals and then hit all three of her routines for the team. She was voted Newcomer of the Year by the staff. Beamer is very committed to earning a spot in the lineup on all four events and is working hard on improving all of her routines. She is looking great and I am sure she will have even a larger contribution to the team score than last year.
Alexis Greene is another “East Coaster” on the team and calls Severn, MD home. Alexis made an immediate impact on the team and the fans as her dynamic style on Vault, Bars, and Floor made her mark right from the start. She was a major contributor for most of the season until an ankle injury took her off of her leg events. Alexis is still getting her ankle injuries healed but she is looking very good with a limited training schedule. She should be completely healthy by the beginning of the season and I am confident that she will once again be a major contributor to the team on multiple events.
Bree Workman calls Lansing, MI home. Last season she had a number of injuries/medical problems that really hampered her from being able to train to her potential. Since then, she has had surgery and is looking to have a much stronger year. She was primarily a vaulter for us last year but she is working hard to add floor and beam to her credentials. She is looking really good in gym and if we can cure her fascination with medical specialists, she will have a very good year.
Sarah Specht comes to the U of A from Naperville, IL. As you all know, Sarah had a serious elbow injury her senior year in High School. She spent the entire year last season trying to come back from that injury but finally a surgery in the spring has put her back on track. She will retain all of her eligibility so even though she has been with us for a year, she is a freshman in the NCAA’s eyes. She has really dedicated herself to regaining her form and she looks really good. I think that all of the GymCat faithful are going to be impressed with her gymnastics and contribution to the team. Even with the physical problems, Sarah was stellar in the classroom being named an Academic Champion.
Jamie Custer is also from Naperville, IL and is the next in a long line of Region 5 gymnasts that have come down to the warmth of the desert. Jamie is a five time JO National qualifier, finishing in the top-10 in the All-Around three consecutive years, as well as being named to the J.O. National Team. Jamie obviously trains every apparatus but her strongest event is vault. Right now I expect Jamie to seriously challenge for a spot in the vault line-up and will certainly challenge or back-up on the other events. Her addition to the depth of the squad will benefit the bottom line, the team score.
Brittney Morgan comes from the same gym as former GymCat, Jamie Schell ?- Hill’s Gymnastics in Maryland. Brittney actually calls Charlottesville, VA home. Brittney is a four time JO National qualifier, finishing 2nd in the All-Around twice, winning the Beam title twice, and named to the J.O. National team twice. Brittney is what I call a “classic” All-Arounder. Brittney is accomplished on each of the apparatus and really doesn’t have a “true” best event. I guess one could say that Beam is her strongest event but she can perform very high level gymnastics everywhere. I expect Brittney to make her first impact on the Beam team but she will certainly help the team on multiple apparatus as she becomes comfortable with her transition to NCAA gymnastics.
Miranda Russell decided she was ready for warmth as she headed south from Oshkosh, WI to the U of A. Miranda is also a very accomplished All-Arounder. In fact, until she was injured at the JO National Championships, she was undefeated last season. Miranda is another “classic” All-Arounder. She has a very high skill level on every event and has been looking very impressive this fall. I expect Miranda to make an impact immediately on a few events, possibly Bars and Beam, but I would not be surprised if she picked up her first All-Around score of her collegiate career before the season was very far along.
John Court I am not sure what I can say about John that hasn’t already been said. He has been with me since I took over the program in the fall of ’98. That makes it his ninth year with the program. Before joining our program, he was the Head Coach at the University of Vermont. All of the coaching staff is qualified to coach every event but John’s main focus in the gym is Tumbling and Vault. Outside the gym, John spearheads our recruiting effort as well as coordinating our summer camp. His value is immense to both me and the team. His drive to be successful has impacted every area of the program.
Colleen Johnson Colleen is in her third year with the program and is from Vancouver, BC. Before joining us here in the desert, Colleen was an Assistant with North Carolina State University. And before the coaching days, Colleen was a National Team member for the Canadian National Team and an NCAA All-American at Florida. Colleen is certainly one of the best coaches I have coached with and the quality of our Beam team and the Floor routines speak for themselves. She is also involved with the marketing of the program as well as the public “presentation” of the team. As most of you know, the gymnasts go through quite a process to get ready for competition and Colleen is the one makes sure that the team is ready. Everything from clothes to hair to makeup goes through her.
Matt Radelet: This is Matt’s fifth year “officially” as our trainer but has been involved with the program for many years. He has been at Arizona almost as long as I have and we often talk about the alumni, how the current team reminds us of GymCats from the past, and recalling certain bizarre medical cases as we proceed through the year trying to keep the team healthy. Matt is a critical member of the staff and I can’t say enough how much I appreciate his expertise and efforts keeping the team on the floor. He has to deal with the most dangerous sport on campus and put bodies back together that have been pushed to their limit for 18+ years.
Neil Willey is our strength coach and plays a big part in the physical preparation of the team to be able to perform very difficult skills on a weekly basis. I have come to rely heavily on Neil as I prepare the team. As an adult gymnast, there is only so much abuse their bodies can take at this stage of their careers. Add to that the fact that NCAA gymnastics forces them to perform more high level gymnastics during a season than they have ever done before. The use of strength training is vital to keep them prepared while letting them recover from the ballistics of the gym.
Brina Weissman: This is Brina’s second full year as the Team Manager. The team will be the first to tell you that Brina plays a very important role within the program. Besides the normal duties helping the coaching staff with team functions, Brina serves as a floor manager during meets, making sure mats and equipment are set correctly for each gymnast as well as making sure that each routine is being videotaped. She also handles equipment issues in workout as well as running our performance analysis software as needed. She absolutely makes my life easier and I wouldn’t want to go out on the floor at a competition without her.
Hall-of-Fame I very happy to let everyone know that on Friday, November 10th, Kristi Gunning will the latest GymCat to be inducted in the University of Arizona Hall-of-Fame. Kristi competed from 1991-1994 and was one of the top team performers during her time here and finished her career listed on the Top-10 performers list on all five events (V, UB, BB, FX, AA). In
Kristi’s era, teams were required to compete two all-arounders of which she was one and, along with fellow Arizona Hall-of-Fame member Stacy Fowlkes, led the team in one of the most prolific times in program history. Her accomplishments include: 4x All-Conference, 2x All-America, 1993 Pac-10 Conference Champion on vault, and 1994 Team Captain. She was also a finalist for Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year and one of six finalists for the “American Award” which honors the top gymnast in the country based on their entire collegiate career. She garnered team awards that included the "Kristen Weber Award" and team MVP, the "Golden A". In 1993, she was invited and competed in the World University Games Trials. In her final meet as a Wildcat, Kristi was determined to do everything in her power to compete for the team. She competed with a broken wrist. Performing on Vault, Beam & Floor with a cast on and using a fist instead of an open hand to block and tumble. She removed the cast for Bars and ignored the pain. She went four-for-four and was the teams’ highest scoring all-arounder. She is now married and currently lives with her husband and children in Chula Vista, CA.
If you are interested in attending, the ceremony will be at 4:00 pm on November 10th. For more information and reservations, call the Office of Special Events at 520-621-2331
Along the same lines of GymCats and university honors, the banners signifying that Monica Bisordi and Katie Johnson are members of the Gymnastics Ring-of-Fame went up in McKale Center in late September.
Intrasquads The first intrasquad is tentatively scheduled for Friday, December 1st and the second intrasquad is scheduled for Friday, December 15th. They will begin at 3:00 and they are held in our practice facility and the public is welcome. As most of you know, the gym doesn’t really have seating but I a sure we can find room if you would like to watch. Keep an eye on the newsletter about time or date changes. I try to schedule as best I can but a lot of factors determine when these events can occur.
Schedule Changes Last year, I erroneously listed both NCAA Regionals and Nationals on the wrong weekends. They are correctly listed on the schedule at the end of this newsletter. I hope that this does not cause anyone any problems. Please take special note of the date for Regionals, April 14, 2007.
Alumni Sightings It was a busy summer on the Alumni front. At the beginning of the summer, I was able to attend Kristin McDermott’s wedding in Long Branch, NJ. Kristin looks great, and her husband is a nice guy. It was really nice catching up with all of the McDermott clan that I haven’t seen in quite a while. Gretchen Diaz came up for the wedding from Puerto Rico. Gretchen really looks good also. She was there with her sister Eileen. Gretchen is planning to move to Miami in the coming year to live with her sister. Maureen (Kealey) Bleam emailed me some photos of her new son, Kevin. Mo wasn’t able to make it to Kristin’s wedding due to the imminent arrival of said son. Less than a month later I was able to attend Jenna Karadbil’s wedding in Las Vegas. She is still living in Los Angeles and her husband, Jacob, is currently in the armed forces. I never thought that Jenna would settle down but it is obvious she is very happy. A week after that, I was able to attend Stacey Walski’s wedding up in Phoenix. Besides myself, Kara (Fry) Meyer, Mary Reiss, Lisa Heckel, and Cami Banholzer were there representing Stacey’s GymCat family. And just for the record, they all look fabulous. Every wedding has its own uniqueness. At Stacey’s wedding, one unique thing was that the DJ played “Bear Down” during the reception. Our entire table seemed to have U of A connections and Stacey came over as the table sang along. I spoke with Randi (Liljenquist) Acosta for a while to see what she was up to. She has left coaching and is now a full-time mom in Phoenix, trying to keep up with her “high-maintenance” daughter (Her words, not mine). Jessica (Marshall) Hart called to fill me in on her latest. She is now living in the Santa Cruz, CA area. She is currently coaching and starting her judging certification. I am very excited about that and the rest of you alumni should think about it ?- the sport needs you! Jamie Duce, Jessamyn Salter, Andi McCabe, and Aimee Estella all came out for Aubrey’s wedding. I spent some time with Emily Peterman at the U.S. Championships in Minneapolis. She is doing very well club coaching in Colorado. I spoke with Katie Johnson while I was in the Twin Cities. She is enjoying her new job but knows she is in for a slightly different version of a winter than what she has become accustomed to. Jamie Duce stopped by the gym one afternoon to check out the newest team members. Kara (Fry) Meyer did the same. Lindsay Compitello has moved back to Arizona. She is living up in Phoenix with the goal of opening her own Pilates studio. In fact, I have seen her website for her new company “Authentic Pilates”. I see Jessamyn Salter, Andi McCabe and Alli Hay occasionally as they are coaching at a local clubs here in town. Rose McLaughlin has left her coaching position at Arkansas to take the bar exam. She is also getting married this Thanksgiving weekend in Tucson. Heidi Hornbeek called to see what was up. She is now in her surgical internship in Palm Beach, FL. Tenli Poggemeyer also called to say hello. She is still teaching at Paradise Valley High School in the Phoenix area. Amanda Goins stopped by on a day off from her job coaching. She is coaching at her former club, Arizona Sunrays, which is also the club of fellow alumni Tania (Schneider) Shue, Heidi Hornbeek, Nikki Beyschau, Stevie Fanning, Danyra Varela and our current manager, Brina Weissman. Stevie Fanning stopped by the office on her way to Las Vegas, NV where she has been transferred for her job. She is in Pharmaceutical sales. Rose McLaughlin stopped by the gym to say hello. She was in town finalizing her wedding plans for November. I talked a bit with Jamie Schell online. She has moved back to Maryland and is working as an Executive Assistant/Project Manager with ICTM.
We are also updating a “Where are they now?” database for our alumni. We use this information on our recruiting webpage but it is also just nice to have. So if you get a chance, just email me with the info at firstname.lastname@example.org or just return the information sheet.
Schedule Make sure to check out the schedule at the end of the newsletter. There have been a few minor changes from the one published last spring. I wouldn’t want there to be any reason for anyone to not be at a meet!
Boosters As always, we really want to thank all of the Boosters who have helped our program over the years. A program like ours uses donations to directly affect the athletes. I hope that you can find it to continue your support. If you would like to donate, just send a check made out to “University of Arizona / GymCats” and send it to me here at the office. I will get it to the proper people. Your donation is tax deductible and greatly appreciated.
Cyberspace There are some great photos of the team out there on the web. A fan/supporter of the team has been photographing us for a few years now and the quality is excellent. His name is Stoddard Reynolds and the URL is http://www.pbase.com/stod45/u_of_a . You can leave a comment or contact him about getting actual prints.
You can keep up on important information on the team at the Official University of Arizona Athletics Website (www.arizonaathletics.com). This year, I still plan to have the newsletter on the website. The archives of the old newsletters reside at (www.u.arizona.edu/~ryden/gym.html). In fact there is an entire segment of GymCat supporters who receive this newsletter electronically. Please contact me if you would like to be put on that list.
Until next time...