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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Home senior sendoff for Gymcats

    Senior Night for Arizona Wildcat senior gymnast Erin Muirhead will be special for one very big reason.

    She’s not injured.

    As the No. 15 Wildcats (5-9, 4-2 Pacific 10 Conference) battle No. 19 Denver (13-4), Southeast Missouri (8-5), and Cal State-Fullerton (6-7) in McKale Center tonight, Muirhead will take center stage for the final time at home.

    “”(Muirhead) told me after practice (yesterday), ‘Coach, I made it to my senior meet,'”” Arizona head coach Bill Ryden said.

    He said that Muirhead has been a terrific leader for the squad in her final year.

    “”She’s having probably her best year,”” he said. “”She’s in the best shape of her life.””

    Ryden said that for Muirhead, making it through her final season without suffering a major injury is an accomplishment all on its own, especially after having to sit out the rest of the season five meets into the 2005 campaign.

    “”Our sport is very abusive,”” Ryden said. “”When you’re 22 and have been doing it for 16-plus years, your body is breaking down.

    “”She really dedicated herself to making it a full year.””

    Muirhead, who will be honored alongside undergraduate assistant coach Jessamyn Salter, will lead the Wildcats into the quadrangular meet coming off a 196.300-point performance against No. 2 Florida and Brigham Young last weekend.

    “”I do think we’re capable of putting (196 points) up again,”” Ryden said. “”We had weak routines, and we didn’t have the most perfect meet. If we live up to what we’re capable of, we’re not afraid of anyone.””

    Ryden said his team put up one of the best scores in the country last weekend, saying that each weekend the Gymcats aren’t just competing with the schools that are sharing the gym with them.

    “”Each meet we need to rise to the occasion,”” he said. “”We are competing against everyone in the nation every week. If we make mistakes, it was a mental lapse.””

    Ryden said his team is well prepared for the postseason having competed against many of the top teams in the country.

    “”You get seasoned very quickly that way,”” he said.

    One of the keys that has helped his squad is being able to compete at home in front of a great fan base that Ryden described as loud and vocal in their support of the team.

    “”The fans have been great,”” he said. “”The alumni have gone out of their way to cheer on the newcomers.””

    It will be the last time Muirhead hears those home crowd cheers in her career as a Wildcat. In a ceremony honoring the sole senior gymnast Ryden said Muirhead will be presented with a framed leotard in the same sort of ceremony seen for the basketball teams.

    While this may be the Gymcats’ last home meet, the season for the Arizona gymnasts is far from over. The Gymats hit the road March 17 for their last regular season meet in Denton, Texas, as Arizona take on squads from Texas Women’s and tangle again with BYU in a triangular meet.

    After that, it’s off to the Pac-10 Championships March 25 to be held this year in Corvallis, Ore.

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