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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Consistent, supporting fans boost Gymcats”

    Jacob Konst / Arizona Daily Wildcat

No. 14 Wildcats Score a 195.350, Upset No. 6 UCLA
    Jacob Konst
    Jacob Konst / Arizona Daily Wildcat No. 14 Wildcats Score a 195.350, Upset No. 6 UCLA

    In gymnastics, there are no free throws, no automatic first downs and no bases on balls. At Arizona, however, there’s a fan base that would surprise a lot of people.

    “”We have a pretty faithful following of 800 to 900 that are going to be there no matter what,”” said Arizona head coach Bill Ryden.

    Ryden’s estimate was right on the money. Arizona’s lowest attendance of the year was 860 on Senior Night, which unfortunately coincided with the first day of spring break.

    While the intricacies of the sport may not be obvious to most fans – for instance what makes a 9.725 different from a 9.800 – the visual aspect of the sport is impressive enough to draw in fans. The scoring may make it difficult to understand, but the grace and skill the athletes display make the sport easy to appreciate.

    “”Some of the intricacies may take a little bit to get a hold of, but the fans get hooked,”” Ryden said. “”They know a fall is bad, a solid landing is good.

    “”Our sport is so popular visually, the fans appreciate what they see and just get hooked on it.””

    When Arizona hosted then-No. 2 Florida and Brigham Young on March 3, the team set a season-high attendance mark with 1,096. That wasn’t a fluke. Arizona’s home opener against California on Jan. 27 drew 1,061 fans, and meets versus UCLA and Washington drew 1,001 and 1,004 fans respectively.

    Ryden is pleased with the consistency the team has gotten from fans all season, especially with so many other competitive sports at Arizona.

    “”Every sport sort of cannibalizes each other because every sport is so good here,”” Ryden said. “”You have to stop and think, how many good teams are there?””

    While baseball fans might not translate to being gymnastics fans, on Feb. 24, the two sports went head-to-head. While the Gymcats just topped 1,000 fans against UCLA, baseball drew 715 fans across the street at Sancet Stadium against La Salle.

    The women’s basketball team, on its senior day against Stanford with President Peter Likins and Gov. Janet Napolitano in attendance for the jersey retirement of the late Shawntinice Polk, drew only 1,700 fans.

    The soccer team, which made the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen in the fall before losing to eventual national champion Portland, drew over 1,000 fans just once on the season, packing in 1,208 on Oct. 29 in the last home game of the season.

    Every sport sort of cannibalizes each other because every sport is so good here. You have to stop and think, how many good teams are there?

    -Bill Ryden
    Gymcats head coach

    Even volleyball, a team that was one game short of the Final Four, pulled in low attendance numbers at times, dipping as low as 1,012 fans for a Pac-10 match when the Wildcats took on Washington State.

    The Gymcats’ fan base is a diverse group made of students, Tucson residents and gymnastic club members from across the southeast corner of the state.

    Arizona Gymcats fans Katie Stockberger has been going to the meets for two years and were surprised at the number of fans at the meets.

    “”A lot of the times we go to the baseball games too, and it seems like there are more people at the gymnastics meets,”” said Stockberger, a communication sophomore. “”The little gymnasts come and ask the girls for their autographs and treat them like celebrities, it’s cute.””

    Arizona freshman Gymcat Briana Bergeson knows what it’s like to be a young gymnast at the NCAA meets. A native of Phoenix, Bergeson used to take trips with her gymnastic clubs to the ASU meets.

    “”I knew a lot of the little gymnasts would be there,”” Bergeson said. “”It’s funny when they come up and ask me for autographs because I remember I used to think (the ASU gymnasts) were so good. They make you feel like a celebrity, and I’m not.””

    With all the different kinds of fans at the meets, the loudest fans might be the Wildcats themselves. They cheer each other on throughout the meet, even mimicking their favorite parts of their teammates’ floor exercises.

    “”We see the routines like three times a week, so everyone has their favorite things they like to act out. The coaches encourage us to cheer each other on because it gets you more hyped, just everyone screaming for you.”” Bergeson said.

    The Arizona gymnastics fans may not understand the judges’ scores, but this season they’ve certainly liked them. The Wildcats are headed to their 20th straight NCAA Regional on April 8 on the shoulders of their fans.

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