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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The slipper-less Cinderella

    Michael Fitzpatrick - Sports writer
    Michael Fitzpatrick – Sports writer

    Quick Hits With Fitz

    You’ve heard the story of the underdog a hundred times. Watch any Disney sports movie – real or fictional – and you’ll see.

    “”Miracle,”” the story of the underdog 1980 USA hockey team defeating the Soviet Union, four-time defending Olympic champions; or “”Remember the Titans,”” the story of the 1971 T.C Williams High School football team, a desegregated school in Alexandria, Va., that overcame racism and injury to win the state title; or the first two “”Mighty Ducks”” movies.

    But for the every underdog that makes it, there are hundreds that don’t. The feel-good story that never came to fruition, the dream that will forever remain just a dream.

    And that is the story of the 2008 Arizona gymnastics team.

    The season began in the most unlikely of places at the most unfortunate of times. While the Gymcats’ state-of-the-art training facility was being completed, they were forced to prepare for the season at Tumbleweeds Gymnastics, a club in Tucson.

    The beginning of the season set the tone for the year, as Arizona started slow and took a long time to get rolling.

    They will never admit it, but training in a club gym at the most important time of the year – the beginning – hurt the Gymcats. Sure, it brought them together as a group, but team camaraderie does not win anything. Execution does.

    Imagine the softball team practicing with only tees and no live batting practice in January and see how good their team batting average would be the first month of the season.

    This is what happened to the Gymcats: they started slow out of the gate and that was a serious setback. It took them until Feb. 9 to score above 194.325 and until Feb. 15, when they defeated ASU in Tempe for the first time since 1987, to top 195.

    The Tempe meet started a Gymcat streak of two consecutive meets that they scored above 196 – a score they did not reach again until the last meet of the season on March 21.

    The next week against Kentucky marked the beginning of the end for Arizona. The “”Curse of Kentucky”” encompassed a meet with questionable judging at best, but something to be expected in a sport where scores are subjective. The worst part of the trip was the flight back, when the Gymcats became airport rats and were stuck in the Kentucky airport for much of the day. They eventually flew into Phoenix and bused to Tucson, many not getting home until 3:30 a.m.

    “”I’ve blacklisted Kentucky,”” senior Danielle Hicks later said. “”I am never going back there again.””

    The “”Curse of Kentucky”” lasted into Denver the next week when the Gymcats simply melted down and had their worst meet of the year. They counted four falls on the beam alone, and considering only six gymnasts compete per event, to only have two stay on the apparatus is devastating.

    Arizona started to regain its form in the senior meet. The Pacific 10 Conference Championships in Seattle was the only meet in which not a single gymnast fell.

    Things were looking up, Arizona was placed in a winnable regional where no favorite had the home court advantage, but once again was struck by the “”curse of Kentucky.””

    Senior All-American Karin Wurm developed a mysterious wrist injury and junior Alexis Greene hurt her knee during warmups, which greatly affected the depth of the Gymcat bench.

    Arizona struggled during its first three events, while Utah and Arkansas prospered. Three Gymcats fell on the beam, Wurm included. While Arizona was already eliminated as a team by the fourth rotation, Wurm’s fall was devastating.

    Wurm, one of the finest gymnasts to ever compete at Arizona, scored a 38.800 in the all-around and failed to qualify for nationals as an individual, while

    Haley Bogart of Washington earned a trip. Only twice did Bogart’s all-around score top 39, while only twice did Wurm’s dip below.

    “”That makes it even worse for me,”” said head coach Bill Ryden. “”Karin is such a superb gymnast, she doesn’t deserve to stay home. But when I say the postseason is a new life, I mean it. The rest of the season means nothing.””

    And that shouldn’t be. One of the top gymnasts in the nation is home because of an aberration, it’s a cryin’ shame.

    Karin Wurm deserves to have her career prolonged in Athens, Ga., on April 26. But she won’t; she’ll be in Tucson with the rest of her teammates, dreaming of what might have been.

    Just one of the underdogs that never made it.

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