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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Trio of GymCats frosh learn ropes from elders

Rebecca Marie Sasnett

Arizona women’s gymnastics freshman Victoria Ortiz practices on the bars during practice on Tuesday in the Mary Roby Gymnastics Training Center. The GymCats have added three freshmen to compete this upcoming season, making an already stacked team even more formidable.

Building on an already stacked Arizona women’s gymnastics team is difficult, but freshmen Madison Cindric, Victoria Ortiz and Kennady Schneider bring a new perspective to the table, and UA coaches are confident in the progress they have made thus far.

“They are very diverse and very different, all three of them, but I think that is a good mix,” Arizona assistant coach Meredith Paulicivic said. “From their gymnastics, personalities to their clothing styles, they are about as different as you can get, but I think that is a good thing. They bring a lot of good balance to the program in a lot of different areas.”

Freshmen students generally struggle to maintain a balance between academics and extracurricular activities. When you add being an NCAA Division I athlete, it can be quite a challenging transition, some of which is easier for others.

“I was expecting [the transition] to be more difficult,” Ortiz said. “Just the amount of encouragement is really helpful, and [the coaches] always make sure we are on top of stuff, and if we are struggling, they make sure we get the help we need. So, it hasn’t been that hard of a transition.”

Cindric grew up in Newark, Del., and said she hasn’t been inside a classroom since the fourth grade because she was home-schooled.

“It was hard for me because I was home-schooled in high school, so it is a big change with school,” Cindric said. “Gym-wise it is just so different, because in club, you are just by yourself, and here, you have this whole support system around you, and you are all going toward the same goal.”

Paulicivic recognized how difficult the transition can be, especially because she is new to the Arizona program as well. In years past, Paulicivic coached at the club level for 17 years and produced several elite level athletes, so she understands the process.

“Being the female coach, [it’s important] just trying every now and then to pull out the mother card and go, ‘How’s it going?’” Paulicivic said. “For us to get the most out of them, we have to stay involved in their lives to make sure that transition is going well.”

All three freshmen were highly qualified to be a part of the GymCats due to their competitive natures. In 2013 alone, Cindric was a member of the Junior Olympic team and placed third in the all around at the Junior Olympic Nationals. Schneider was the state bar and floor champion in 2014 in Nevada and qualified for Nationals. Ortiz qualified for the National Invitational Tournament in 2014.

When the three first showed up to practice, they said they were intimidated by the gymnasts that many of them had looked up to most of their lives as role models. Eventually, the upperclassmen welcomed them with open arms.

“At first, I was kind of scared of them,” Schneider said. “When you are younger you look up to them so much and you want to be like them, and being on the same team as them was also intimidating at first, but, honestly, they have welcomed us as equals.”

Those in the group realizes just how lucky they are. According to the NCAA, there are more than 460,000 NCAA student-athletes, but fewer than 2 percent will play professionally.

“It feels like you are important to be apart of the [UA] athletic organization,” Schneider said. “You just feel like you mean something and are doing something for this school. You have a whole different mindset because it’s not about you anymore; it’s about the team.

With four freshmen already gaining valuable collegiate experience and four gymnasts already signing their letters of intent for 2015, the GymCats are set for the present and the future.

“It’s really rewarding, since we have worked so hard all of our lives,” Ortiz said, “and knowing that we are finally here is a really good feeling.”

Follow Matt Wall on Twitter.

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