By: Charlie Newton UA Communication Services
The transition from high school athletics to collegiate athletics for athletes is normally very difficult, but four Arizona freshman gymnasts have given fearless performances this season. Accounting for 10 of Arizona’s inidividual routine scores of over 9.900 these girls have made a notable impact in their first year.
Selynna Felix-Terrazas, Mackenzie Valentin, Krysten Howard, and Gabby Laub all have impressed with their fearless performances this season.
“They are all four contributing quite a bit,” said Head Coach Bill Ryden. “They are all four competing and they are all counting in the score. In some spots they are filling in gaps or holes that we had. In other spots they are improving the quality of the team. We wouldn’t be as far along without them and they are all four doing an outstanding job.”
The “grind” is something that wears on the spirit and desire of even the strongest competitor. Getting up for 6 a.m. workouts, going to class, going to practice, and then doing homework provides little time to do much of anything else.
Ryden has seen the desire from these girls get stronger through this process.
“Just a great work ethic,” said Ryden. “A desire and just a pureness and love for the sport. They want to be better and want the team to do better and a willingness to do whatever they can and a willingness to fight through bizarre situations that we have had with each of them.
Although, this year has had its share of bumps along the way Ryden has seen these girls fight back.
“Even when they get knocked down they come back swinging,” said Ryden. “I just really enjoy all four of them and I am really glad they are a part of the program and they certainly have made an impact.”
All four girls have felt the impact, but have taken it with full spirits.
“It’s been really fun,” said Howard. “It’s definitely different from high school and club gymnastics. It has been a really good experience and we have all grown so much as a freshman group and as a team.”
Collegiate gymnastics is a sport where you develop your skills over the years you are in the program. The more experienced and veteran athletes usually contribute more than that of new freshman. Coach Ryden recognizes his unique group and is proud of his girls for working hard against this tendency.
“We have had this in the past, but that is what is so unique,” said Ryden. “Having freshmen contribute like this is just not common for them to be having such an impact. We have had other classes where we have had more freshman routines, but I think in this case a lot of times our freshman are making us better, not just simply plugging holes. That is always a positive.”
The girls believe the effort they have put in and contributions they have made has helped bring the team closer.
“I think it has affected all of us a lot,” said Felix-Terrazas. “We aren’t just random girls; we actually try hard and put all of our effort in just like the older girls do even though we aren’t as experienced. I think that contributes a lot for what the freshman do for the team. “
The team has dealt with a few different injuries this season that has forced last minute roster changes. The girls have all felt prepared and understand that they might have to compete when they were not scheduled to.
“I try to keep myself prepared for the changes,” said Valetin. “So if I have to step in, it’s not an issue.”
Through all the injuries and “bizarre events”-as Coach Ryden described- these girls have grown closer and are enjoying the impact they are able to make.
“I know we have enjoyed making an impact and not just sitting on the sidelines,” said Laub. “They are really supportive. I think it has really brought us closer together. For me coming to a team was unique because in club I was alone. It was just my coaches and I and I never really had a support system, but here it is awesome because no matter what you do they are there for you. It is just a good feeling.”