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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Gymcats shift focus to brighter future

    Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildca

UA gymnastics meets Oregon State University in an NCAA gymnastics meet for the first home meet of the season at McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz., Friday, Jan. 23, 2008.
    Michael Ignatov
    Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildca UA gymnastics meets Oregon State University in an NCAA gymnastics meet for the first home meet of the season at McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz., Friday, Jan. 23, 2008.

    Sometimes it’s easier to look at the bigger picture.

    With a 14-11 record, a number of untimely injuries and a fourth place finish at regionals, the 2009 season was not exactly what the Arizona gymnastics team would call ideal.

    “”We did have a lot of positives this year,”” said UA head coach Bill Ryden, “”but this is not exactly what I wanted.””

    A key component to any successful athletic program is the power and versatility that goes along with having quality depth. That being said, the rather-thin Gymcat lineup was quite the burden this year.

    “”We came into the season with a number of deficiencies,”” Ryden said. “”Even back in August we knew we were in trouble depth-wise. We immediately had holes.””

    Right from the get-go, Arizona lost freshman Jillian O’Neal to a wrist injury, and shortly thereafter junior Miranda Russell fell victim to a blown out knee.

    “”Competitive gymnastic teams have depth,”” Ryden said. “”Due to an assortment of injuries, none of the seniors were even able to train three events.””

    With a lack of a consistent all-around athlete, the Gymcats appeared to struggle to pick up the missing points in

    almost every meet they faced.

    Sophomore Colleen Fisher offered hope as she broke the 39-point barrier in the All-Around, but a tender shoulder would prevent her from being the stable All-Around athlete the team desperately needed.

    Despite the mediocre record this season, Ryden is very proud that his team overcame its hardships and still went on to compete at regionals.

    “”I knew from the start that we had a shallow lineup,”” Ryden said, “”but I still told them that we had to reach for the sky.””

    The Gymcats did just that, earning five spots on the All-Conference team, four spots on the All-Academic team, and even one spot on the National team – redshirt junior Sarah Tomczyk.

    “”We really grew,”” Ryden said. “”Even the seniors.””

    On that note, the team is sad to see four of their veteran gymnasts move on from the sport. 2009 marked the final season for Alexis Greene, Beamer Bergeson, Bree Workman and Erica Anderson. The loss of these athletes will be a tremendous test of Arizona’s abilities, but the team is looking forward to the new batch of Gymcats set to hit the mats in 2010.

    “”We’re going to miss (the seniors) a lot,”” said freshman Britnie Jones. “”They were a great asset to the team but we’ve got a lot of great talent coming with next year’s class, so next season is looking pretty good.””

    Ten of the 14 athletes on Arizona’s roster will be underclassmen next year, but just because the team is young does not mean there will be a lack of skill.

    “”We’re definitely going to have a full lineup next year,”” Ryden said. “”We have four incoming freshmen that can definitely compete All-Around, and in reality we’ll be gaining 16 routines. We will actually have the opportunity to substitute, which is huge.””

    Added to the ensemble of the fresh faces, Russell and O’Neal should return in full health and freshman Katie Matusik will be pondering the idea of undergoing surgery to repair her injured shoulder.

    “”We always have to prepare for the future,”” Ryden said, “”and we’re going to hit the ground running. There are no excuses for this year, but next year will showcase an entirely different gymnastics.””

    Arizona feels very confident in its abilities, now that the freshmen have had a taste of what the game is all about. Furthermore, the addition of four new athletes to complement the skills of veteran gymnasts like Fisher and Tomczyk – who will compete in the NCAA Championships on April 16 in the floor exercise – may prove to be the key to a bright future ahead.

    “”The new freshmen have already had the opportunity to meet the team and they’ve all already bonded quite well,”” Ryden said. “”I have full faith that the incoming athletes will become an intricate part of this team’s chemistry.””

    So with a difficult season left behind, the Gymcats are excited to see what the future has in store, and feel more than ready to take it head on.

    “”I was incredibly proud of this year’s team,”” Ryden said, “”but I am very excited to witness next year’s potential.””

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