Arizona Gymnastics Meet Notes
What’s on Tap: The No. 13 Arizona women’s gymnastics team will travel to State College, Pa., to take on Penn State and No. 5 Alabama this Saturday. The meet is set to begin at 7 p.m. (EST) at Rec Hall.
A Look Back: The Arizona women’s gymnastics team opened up the 2006 season with a fifth-place finish at the Cancun Gymnastics Classic. The Wildcats (192.925) finished behind Georgia (195.650), Stanford (194.850), Denver (193.850) and Oklahoma (193.325).
The best scoring event for the Wildcats was the uneven parallel bars. Paced by Aubrey Taylor’s fourth-place effort of 9.800, Arizona earned a team score of 48.750 in the event. Danielle Hicks (9.775) finished seventh.
Arizona also had a nice showing in the floor exercise, posting a team score of 48.625. Taylor and Karin Wurm each tallied marks of 9.800 to lead the Wildcats.
On the vault, Arizona recorded a team score of 48.125. Rachelle Silberg, Alexis Greene and Hicks each chipped in scores of 9.700.
Erin Muirhead scored a 9.600 on the balance beam in her first-ever appearance in the event as a Wildcat. Arizona posted a team score of 47.425 in the event.
Three Wildcats competed in the all-around. Taylor (38.575), competing in all four events for the first time since 2004, and Hicks (38.525) each earned Top 10 finishes in the event. Wurm made her Arizona debut as an all-arounder with a total of 38.250.
Four Wildcat gymnasts competed in their first collegiate meet. Bree Workman (9.550 on vault), Briana Bergeson (9.575 on bars and 9.450 on beam), Sarah Parsons (9.675 on bars) and Greene (9.750 on bars, 9.700 on vault and 9.275 on floor) each contributed for Arizona.
The Rankings: The Wildcats were tabbed as the No. 13 in the nation following their performance at the Cancun Gymnastics Classic last week. 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. Gymnastics teams are ranked by their meet scores alone. Teams are ranked by their highest score from Jan. 9-16. From Jan. 9-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 93-107-3. 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 Nittany Lions: This week’s meet will mark the start of the 2006 season for Penn State and therefore the team is not ranked. As a team, the Nittany Lions finished 10th at the 2005 NCAA Championships with a team score of 194.975. Penn State returns 11 gymnasts this season, including four seniors. The Nittany Lions are led by co-captains Meredith Hoover and Corissa Pirkl. Hoover, a senior, competed in the all-around in all 14 meets last season with eight Top 5 finishes, including a season best 39.375. Pirkl, a junior, recorded seven Top 5 beam finishes in 2005, and scored a 9.800 on the bars at the NCAA Championships. The Nittany Lions are coached by Steve Shaphard, who is in his 12th season. He holds a career record of 140-99.
About the Crimson Tide: Alabama enters this week’s competition fresh off the school’s fourth Super Six Challenge title in the last seven years. The Tide’s team score of 194.250 bested five others schools, including Nebraska (194.100), Iowa State (194.050), LSU (193.300), Auburn (193.675) and Missouri (192.700). The fifth-ranked Tide used a lineup full of new faces, as 13 of Alabama’s 24 routines came from freshmen. One of the freshmen, Brittany Magee, had a strong showing on the beam (9.775) and vault (9.850) to earn her a Top 15 national ranking in both events. Not to be out-done, senior Ashley Miles won her fourth-straight vault title at the Super Six Challenge with a 9.950, the top score in the country after one week. As a team, Alabama scored a 49.050 on vault, 48.600 on bars, 48.300 on beam and 48.300 on the floor, all among the Top 10 team scores in the nation. The Tide is co-coached by Sarah and David Patterson, who are in their 28th year at the school and hold a record of 344-76-4.
Road Rules: The Wildcats are getting used to time spent away from home. After opening up in Cancun last week, the school’s first ever meet outside the U.S., the team will be heading to State College, Pa., this week. Arizona then opens Pac-10 action the following week up Interstate 10 in Tempe on Jan. 22. The Wildcats will host their first meet of the year in McKale Center against California on Jan. 27.
Instant Impact: The Wildcats called upon four freshmen to step into the lineup in their first collegiate meet. Briana Bergeson (9.575), Alexis Greene (9.750) and Sarah Parsons (9.675) each chipped in on bars, the team’s highest scoring event (48.750). Greene also turned in a 9.700 vault, while Bree Workman earned a mark of 9.550 on the event as well. Bergeson also competed on beam, posting a 9.450.
Fresh Faces: At first glance, Arizona’s beam score of 47.425 may seem disappointing. However, the reality is that four Wildcats made their first collegiate appearance in the beam lineup. Erin Muirhead turned in the lineup’s top score (9.600) in her debut. Karin Wurm chipped in a 9.500, marking the first time in her career she competed in all four events. Jamie Holton (9.025) and Briana Bergeson (9.450) also performed in the event, one that should improve steadily for the Wildcats throughout the season.
Three’s A Crowd: Half of Arizona’s 24 routines in Cancun were performed by three gymnasts: Karin Wurm, Aubrey Taylor and Danielle Hicks. Wurm (38.250) made her first ever appearance as an all-arounder upon entering the beam lineup. Taylor (38.575) competed in the all-around for the first time since 2004 en route to her eighth-place finish. Hicks remained a mainstay in the Wildcats’ four lineups after competing all-around six times last year, and totaled a 38.525 for a ninth-place finish.
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 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 face 12 of the nation’s Top 25 teams tabbed in the preseason coaches poll, nine of which are currently ranked. The list includes No. 9 and defending Pac-10 champion UCLA, as well as No. 2 and defending national champion Georgia, who the Wildcats faced last week. Arizona will also square off with No. 4 Alabama this week and No. 1 Florida at home later in the year.
Stacked Pac: Once again the Pac-10 will be one of the toughest conferences in the country. Five teams are ranked after the first week of competition. Stanford leads the way at No. 3, followed by No. 9 UCLA, No. 13 Arizona, No. 16 Oregon State and No. 19 Washington. Arizona State will kick off their season this Friday against Oregon State. Six of the seven teams were ranked in the preseason coaches poll. The absence of California marked the first time in three years that all seven Pac-10 teams were not ranked.
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 junior season, Muirhead earned marks of 9.600 on beam and 9.675 on floor in Cancun. 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, sharing the top team score of 9.700.
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 hit the road again, this time up Interstate 10 to face intrastate rival Arizona State. The meet is slated to begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22.