The Arizona GymCats found themselves tied for No. 18 in the country and ranked ninth on the uneven parallel bars after a solid opening on the road last weekend. The success didn’t accompany them back to Tucson to face the No. 10 Arkansas Razorbacks, as falls on their strongest event left them in a hole they couldn’t escape.
There were silver linings, though. The GymCats started strong in the first rotation on vault, where they emerged with a 48.80 to 48.675 lead over the Razorbacks. It was a slight improvement over last week, when Arizona scored a 48.75 on vault.
“There were improved performances on vaulting,” Arizona coach John Court said. “It’s getting better. And beam scored a little higher than it did (last week).”
The problems started in the second rotation when the GymCats moved to bars. Danielle Spencer and Christina Berg tied for first in the event for Arizona with scores of 9.875, but they couldn’t make up for the team having to count a fall.
Freshman MacKinzie Kane was second up. Arizona hoped to be able to drop her 9.20 after she fell on her release. Unfortunately, her performance was followed by another fall from junior Heather Swanson. Swanson’s 9.15 meant that Kane’s score would have to count.
“Bars, two kids fell. That’s going to happen. If they don’t fall and we score seven-tenths higher,” Court said, shrugging.
The errors from the GymCats were compounded by the performance Arkansas gave in the second rotation. The Razorbacks had moved to vault, where they put up a big 49.150 for the highest event total of the day. By the time the rotation ended, the visitors had a 97.825 to 97.350 lead.
Arizona had more setbacks in the third rotation. A fall off the balance beam from sophomore Sydney Friedin put them in the position of counting a 9.625 from fellow sophomore Adra Parks.
While the GymCats put up a 48.675 on the balance beam, the Razorbacks were able to extend their lead with a 48.875 on the floor exercise.
With a 0.675 deficit to make up, the GymCats moved to the floor exercise, where they have not been strong in recent years. Kennady Schneider, their top performer from last year, graduated. So, they are trying to find a new anchor on the showpiece event of gymnastics.
“We messed around with our floor line-ups a little bit,” Court said. “We’re trying to get a lot of our athletes experience. We were able to do that.”
They weren’t able to overcome the Razorbacks’ balance beam scores, though. The Wildcats had a big improvement from last week, when they put up a 98.325 on the floor exercise. A 9.8 from Spencer and a pair of 9.775’s from Berg and Maddi Leydin helped them to a 48.70 this week. The problem was that Arkansas was in the process of putting up a 49.10 on the balance beam.
When the final rotation was over, the Razorbacks had defeated the home team by over a full point, 195.80-194.725.
Spencer and Berg tied for the meet high on uneven parallel bars with their scores of 9.875. Leydin finished second in the All Around competition with a 39.075.
The GymCats are trying to return to the NCAA tournament as a team this season. Last year, they sent two individual athletes, but narrowly missed the 36-team field.