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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Gymcats headed to North Central Regional

    The No. 14 Arizona gymnastics team is headed to Minneapolis, Minn., for the NCAA North Central Regional on April 12. There, the squad will try to qualify for the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics National Championships in Athens, Ga., April 24.

    But it wasn’t always that clear.

    The Gymcats sat inside the Mary Roby Gymnastics Training Center yesterday, eagerly awaiting the word from the war-room in Indianapolis as to where they would be competing for a spot in Athens.

    The only question about Arizona’s hope of making a 22nd consecutive postseason was where it would travel to for competition. Early indications pointed to Gainesville, Fla., Norman, Okla. or Minneapolis, Minn.

    Unlike other college sports, there are no Bracketology sessions or any TV programs devoted to the unveiling of the 36-team gymnastics bracket. In fact, the NCAA rarely announces the teams on time. According to the NCAA Web site, the announcement was supposed to come out at 2 p.m. Pacific standard time yesterday.

    But when head coach Bill Ryden walked into the gym shortly after that time, he had nothing new to announce.

    Then his phone rang. It was ASU head coach John Spini wondering if Ryden knew where his team was going. “”No,”” Ryden told Spini. “”But I’ll let you know.””

    Ryden began the meeting by reading his team a letter from a mother of a Gymcats fan who recently died.

    “”This is what you mean to people,”” he said. “”Don’t take anything for granted.””

    The team then moved to the Lohse Room inside McKale Center to watch a video of Saturday’s Pacific 10 Conference Championship and wait for the NCAA’s word.

    Assistant coach Colleen Johnson brought a laptop and discovered that the Gymcats had been placed in the North Central Region in Minneapolis as a No. 3 seed with No. 1 Utah, No. 2 Arkansas, No. 4 Iowa, No. 5 Southern Utah and the host, No. 6 Minnesota. Her announcement was met with an eruption of cheers from the delighted Gymcats.

    “”This is the best situation for us,”” Ryden said. “”The team that qualifies out of Minnesota is gonna have to do it on a neutral floor, they won’t have that home-court advantage. And for us to be fighting to get into that top-two position, it’s nice to be fighting with schools that are in the same boat as we are.””

    Utah is ranked No. 2 in the nation, and is the favorite to take one of the two spots for nationals, which would leave just one more spot for the Gymcats to squeak in.

    Arkansas, ranked No. 11, and Arizona will be expected to fight for that final spot. But after all, there is still room for an underdog to get the upset. “”We are very

    capable and our team is extremely talented,”” said junior Sarah Specht. “”The whole team spirit and team morale is just so high. …We are very consistent, and it is our time to step it up and to be recognized (as an elite team).””

    In the early part of the season, Arizona struggled, scoring in the 194’s for it’s first five meets.

    The team went to ASU and scored 195.925, then reeled off two consecutive meets of 196.

    Ryden said better landings could help this time around.

    “”I counted at least one full point of deductions in landings alone,”” Ryden said. “”Arkansas will not give away points. Arkansas is not a slouch program – they are ranked 11th for a reason, they are ranked ahead of us for a reason. So we will have to be better than we were in Pac-10’s to move on.””

    And with the given competition, Ryden and his gang knows it’s going to be anything but a cakewalk.

    “”Any (Southeastern Conference) school is dangerous,”” Ryden said. “”Shoot, we lost to Kentucky and they finished last at (SEC

    Championships). This is not going to be an easy meet at all for us, and there is no way that we can think it is going to be an easy meet for us.

    “”All we’ve ever asked for is the opportunity,”” Ryden added. “”And now the opportunity is there and the rest is up to us.””

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