by Adam Gonzales
The beginning of Shelby Edwards’ college career as a Wildcat didn’t go as she had planned it. Before the first meet of her freshman year, she dislocated her elbow during a practice.
After many hours and commitment to rehab, she earned a spot on the roster in the second meet of the season.
“I dislocated my elbow in December, so I couldn’t compete in the first meet.” Edwards said. “The week before our second meet I got cleared to do beam, but I couldn’t use my elbow.”
In that meet, Edwards earned a 9.725 on beam, a remarkable score considering the severity of her injury. In the next meet, she improved her score with a 9.750 on beam, earning Pac-12 Freshman of the week honors. Edwards continued to just compete on beam for the next four meets.
Once she was cleared to compete in other events, Edwards earned Freshman of the Week for the second time after scoring a 9.750 in vault, and a score of 9.750 in beam.
Once the Pac-12 Championships started, she added bars and advanced to the NCAA Regional in the event.
She finished the year with an average score of 9.842 on vault, 9.763 on bars, and 9.775 on beam.
In her first year, Edward impressed head coach Bill Ryden immensely.
“Shelby is an amazing athlete,” Ryden said. “She could potentially be one of the best athletes Arizona has ever had. When she is healthy, she is amazing to watch. She’s also such a genuine person and is a great addition to the team.”
But it hasn’t been an easy road for Edwards. Since she has started competing in gymnastics, her injury was the hardest thing she has ever had to overcome.
“It was the most adversity I had to overcome also because I was a freshman,” Edwards said. “The first time I competed in beam was pretty scary because of my elbow.”
In addition to the physical challenges, Edwards was also overcoming mental obstacles.
“It’s a lot different in college,” Edwards said. “You are competing for the team instead of club, where you are just competing for yourself, so it is also more mentally challenging.”
Edwards is looking to take a bigger role on the team this year since overcoming challenges last year. As a sophomore, she also has a year of experience under her belt.
“I would love to compete all around and I want to do the very best that I am capable of,” Edwards said. “Last year was important to me, because now I understand how it all works. I’m hoping to do better than last year and be really consistent to help the team.”
There is a feeling in the gym that this can be a special team. The Gym Cats finished the year very strong and are looking to take that momentum into the beginning of this upcoming year.
“Right now it looks like we’re going to be really strong on vault,” Ryden said. “We could potentially be very strong on beam, because I think we have the most potential talent there.”
Edwards agrees that this can be a very special team.
“I think everyone is a leader in the gym and we all hold each other accountable,” Edwards said. “Whether you’re a senior or freshman you have that responsibility to be there for your team. I think that’s really special about this team.”
She will have plenty of teammates to back her up, including Jessie Sisler, who earned Pac-12 Freshman of the week honors one time last season, Kristin Klarenbach, and Allie Flores, who have all competed at a high level.
“Everyone is so talented, and we all are looking to go to Nationals this year,” Edwards said. “That is an expectation we all have. We didn’t hit our stride until the end of last year and if we can start that way we will do well.”
Edwards and the Gym Cats’ journey begins on Jan. 11, 2014 in Chicago, Ill.