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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Go crazy for gymnastics

    Freshmen Kai Lindstedt, left, and Joe Blanco cheer on the Arizona gymnastics team in leotards at Feb. 23s meet against ASU in McKale Center. These self-proclaimed super-fans have cheered on the Gymcats at every home meet this year while dressing up, waving signs and making noise.
    Freshmen Kai Lindstedt, left, and Joe Blanco cheer on the Arizona gymnastics team in leotards at Feb. 23’s meet against ASU in McKale Center. These self-proclaimed ‘super-fans’ have cheered on the Gymcats at every home meet this year while dressing up, waving signs and making noise.

    With the Arizona gymnastics team hosting regionals Saturday in McKale Center, I went to my first collegiate gymnastics meet to see some of the nation’s top gymnasts in action.

    What I got was what UA head coach Bill Ryden called a four-ring circus.

    In the six-team event, the squads took turns on the four different events: vault, uneven parallel bars, balance beam and floor exercise. That meant that something was always going on and one group of fans were always screaming about something.

    It was like March Madness on Demand where you could get any NCAA Tournament game streamed onto your computer – except you didn’t have to switch screens to get all the action.

    “”These kinds of meets are fun for the athlete,”” Ryden said, “”but they’re probably a little bit more difficult for the fan, because you can easily be watching something and then hear fans gasp, and then you’re like, ‘What did I miss? What did I miss?’ That’s the only way we can really do it, but I think the four-team event is fun. I think it’s exciting.””

    Ryden was right. You start concentrating on the gymnast tumbling on the floor and you’ll miss somebody fall on the vault (not like I was watching for anything like that, of course).

    Although Ryden bemoaned the fact that Arizona’s softball game against California and the Spring Game Saturday may have taken away from attendance, he complimented the 1,390 in the stands – a group made up of fans from all six schools but certainly loudest for the Gymcats.

    “”It was great to have that hometown (advantage), and I really felt that might be the little edge that put us over, and maybe it was the edge that got us this close,”” Ryden said after the Beavers edged out Arizona by 0.05 for second place and a shot in the National Championships. “”Oregon State’s a deserving team, there’s no doubt they’re a good team. I just think we could be in that meet as well, obviously.””

    However, it was not because of the efforts of three UA students who have become self-proclaimed “”super-fans,”” wearing wigs, organizing chants and doing what they can to add excitement to the building. One of them even painted his chest Arizona blue and red to watch gymnastics.

    Saturday the trio – freshmen Joe Blanco, Sean Sheridan and Kai Lindstedt – sat right behind the uneven parallel bars and heckled the opposition.

    They did their part by bringing signs (“”I’m just here for the girls””), making shirts (“”Girls with chalk make me horny””) and even yelling at the refs (“”Score this both ways””).

    “”It’s basically anything you can come up with,”” Blanco said. “”Even if you can make the other team laugh, then they’re thinking less about their routine. You want to make them think about something other than their routine. It’s a little bit more reserved than a football game, but you try to do all you can to get inside their head.””

    These wig-wearers were not just out for regionals; they’ve attended every UA home meet.

    After freshman Gymcat Jamie Custer urged her high school classmate Blanco to check out Arizona’s home opener, the trio decided to come out the rest of the season to start up some football chants and rile up the crowd, not an easy task at a gymnastics event.

    However, things did not always go smoothly.

    Ryden said at first these fans cheered at times that disrupted Arizona, comparing it to football fans who make noise when the offense takes the field. But after that time they learned when to make noise and when to quiet down.

    Just at the mention of the student fans with wigs, a smile crept over Ryden’s face and he started gushing about them.

    “”Oh my gosh, they’re great,”” he said. “”They’re a whole new level of fans we’ve never had. They’re just absolutely fanatic.””

    In the end not even these guys could impel any hometown judging, and the Gymcats were left with tears smudging their makeup while thinking about the number of ways they could have made up 0.05.

    Too bad you don’t get extra points for crazy fans.

    Michael Schwartz is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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