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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Gymcats to face off against Michigan St.

    The No. 16 Arizona gymnastics team is determined to prove itself worthy of a higher ranking as it heads north to open the season against No. 22 Michigan State tonight in East Lansing, Mich.

    The Wildcats are 5-0 all-time against the Spartans, who are ranked in the preseason poll for the first time since 2004.

    Arizona finished the 2006 season ranked No. 13 after the team just missed qualifying for the NCAA Championships, but head coach Bill Ryden said he expects a better finish this year.

    “”We’re a much stronger team gymnastics-wise than we were last year,”” Ryden said. “”And we’ll be much stronger in March and April than we are now.””

    The team is led by senior Aubrey Kelly – formerly Aubrey Taylor, as she was married last summer – and junior Karin Wurm, both of whom qualified as individuals for the 2006 NCAA Championships.

    Wurm finished 16th with herall-around score, while Kelly competed on bars after finishing in a first-place tie in that event at the 2006 NCAA North Central Regional Championship.

    The underclassmen add a significant boost to the team, as Kelly said this is the strongest Arizona has been in her 3 1/2 years on the team.

    The sophomore class returns five gymnasts, including Briana Bergeson, who competed on bars and beam in all 13 meets in 2006 and posted a team-high beam score of 9.900, and Alexis Greene, who won four floor titles in her first season.

    “”I guarantee you other teams will be intimidated when they see us,”” Kelly said. “”Of the teams in the nation, I’d say we’re among the top five in terms of difficulty . I’m very optimistic.””

    Tonight will also mark the first collegiate meet for Arizona’s three true freshmen, who Ryden said may see the lineup right away.

    “”They have as much faith in us as any of the upperclassmen, which is rewarding in itself,”” said freshman Miranda Russell, whose family will travel from Oshkosh, Wis., to attend tonight’s meet.

    The meet will also be a homecoming for sophomore Bree Workman, who was born in Lansing.

    Russell may see all-around competition, along with Kelly, Wurm, Greene and freshman Brittney Morgan, Ryden said.

    “”You don’t really select somebody to become an all-arounder,”” Ryden said. “”It’s more that they’re good enough to qualify for every event, then by default they become an all-arounder.””

    Vault is the team’s strongest event, with 10 or 11 athletes prepared to compete, Ryden said. Bars is another strength for the team, as five returning gymnasts posted scores higher than 9.800 in 2006.

    “”I just think we’re going to be a very good team, and we’re going to be a surprise to a lot of people,”” Ryden said.

    Michigan State returns eight letterwinners, including senior Kristen Coleman, whose all-around score was 23rd in last year’s national championships.

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