The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

85° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Competition heats up

    Arizona senior gymnast Karin Wurm performs on the uneven bars during a March 21 meet in McKale Center. The No. 14 Gymcats take part in the NCAA North-Central Regional Saturday in Minneapolis and a top-two finish would punch their ticket to the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga., April 24.
    Arizona senior gymnast Karin Wurm performs on the uneven bars during a March 21 meet in McKale Center. The No. 14 Gymcats take part in the NCAA North-Central Regional Saturday in Minneapolis and a top-two finish would punch their ticket to the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga., April 24.

    One is the most successful program in the history of NCAA women’s gymnastics; another is a squad that didn’t even exist before 2001. Together, they represent the final hurdle in the No. 14 Arizona gymnastics team’s quest to qualify for the national championships in Athens, Ga., April 24.

    Those schools are No. 2 Utah and No. 11 Arkansas, repectively, the top two seeds in the North Central Regional held in Minneapolis on Saturday. The remaining teams Arizona will face are No. 4 seed Iowa, No. 5 seed Southern Utah and the host squad in No. 6 seed Minnesota.

    “”It’s going to be a really good competition,”” said Utah head coach Greg Marsden. “”To be honest, if we hit all four events we will be fine, but if we have any problems, (the region) could become wide open and any number of teams could wind up going (to nationals).””

    That’s high praise from potentially the greatest coach in the history of women’s gymnastics. Marsden has been the head coach at Utah for 33 years, winning 10 NCAA championships and finishing second 17 times.

    “”Greg is the master of this college game and how to win at it,”” said UA head coach Bill Ryden. “”(Utah) is the ultimate well-oiled machine. There is not one program from an entire programmatic standpoint that can outdo Utah because every little detail is always taken care of.

    “”If they do something that is different than everybody else, it’s not a mistake, it’s because Greg wants it that way,”” Ryden added. “”There is nothing you can take away from Utah and their program because they are the model which every program is based on. They started how to be a dynasty in gymnastics and they will always be the measuring stick.””

    Utah, which has already beaten No. 1 Georgia this year, is the favorite to place first in Minnesota and – barring any major upsets – to seriously challenge Georgia for the ultimate prize.

    “”It was good and it was fun, but it was the first meet of the season,”” Marsden said of beating Georgia. “”We gained some confidence … but now we are going to have to go to their place if we want a national championship.””

    Arkansas’ program didn’t even exist until 2001 when the school approached Mark and Rene Cook, the co-head coaches at Stanford at the time, and asked them to build a program from the ground up.

    “”We’ve been very fortunate,”” Rene Cook said. “”We’ve gotten a lot of support, not only financially but in the community as well. It took a lot of hard work convincing people to believe, and we got the right girls and things have really gone according to plan.””

    Cook added that leaving the history and tradition at Stanford for a fledging program in the Southeastern Conference was “”an amazing opportunity for the sport”” and a way “”to help the sport grow a lot faster.””

    While Arkansas’ gymnastics may not be known for having the highest degree of difficulty in their routines, they are famous for not giving anything away, according to Ryden.

    “”It’s on us to not beat ourselves,”” Ryden said. “”Arkansas will be 100 percent ready and they’re obviously well coached and they have good athletes. You can’t say anything bad about that program. It’s up to us to beat them. They won’t give it to us.””

    Rene Cook is counting on the experience her team has gained throughout its conference season to go into Athens.

    “”The SEC is where the big dogs are,”” she said. “”The intensity of the competition and the venues always have large crowds. The people are very proud of their schools and there are some really intense rivalries. It’s great. It adds a little bit of pressure but it gives us an advantage for mental preparation.””

    Rene Cook said the Lady ‘Backs are not worried about facing a team of Utah’s caliber as they faced strong teams in each of their meets. The Gymcats, however, could present a problem.

    “”We know that (Arizona) had some injuries early and we know they are going to be ready for the competition, but we just need to do our job,”” she said. “”We know that (Arizona) is gonna fight us tooth and nail for that second spot. They are not going to just give it to us.””

    More to Discover
    Activate Search