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Arizona GymCats show improvement, but lose to No. 20 Washington in Pac-12 opener

Maddi Leydin won the All-Around and matched her career high on the uneven parallel bars
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

The world of college gymnastics is different than most sports. It’s not just the strong artistic component. Even success is defined differently.

Wins and losses aren’t always the guiding prinicples. They don’t get a team to the postseason—scores earned over the course of the season do that—and they aren’t always indicative of how well a team is doing.

With this in mind, it wasn’t difficult to understand how Arizona GymCats coach John Court could be thrilled with his team’s performance despite a 196.525-195.650 defeat at the hands of the No. 20 Washington GymDawgs.

“It was a fantastic step forward between last week and the week before that—this is our third week,” Court said. “Happy about the improvements in our performance. And our depth, it’s certainly improving. The freshman came in tonight, did some routines that were in the line-up.”

While freshman Kinzie Kane competed in the previous two meets, classmates Asia DuVernay and Kennedi Davis made their debuts against the GymDawgs. Both had solid performances. DuVernay put up a 9.70 on the vault and Davis had a 9.75 on the balance beam. That allowed Court to rest Jenny Leung, who had tweaked her ankle.

As a team, the biggest step forward came on the floor exercise. Like last week, the coaching staff made some changes to the line-up. Those changes led to Arizona’s first score of 49 points on the floor this season.

While the meet had been decided by that point, the GymCats went out and put up big scores on an event that isn’t always their best. Although Dani Spencer fell, they were able to drop her 9.025 because the rest of the team picked her up.

Unlike last week, the team didn’t have to count any falls or major form breaks on any event. Their lowest score on the floor was a 9.70. The highest was a 9.90 put up by junior Chrissy Berg.

Court said that their depth has been greatly improved not only by the influx of freshmen, but also by upperclassmen like Berg either taking on new events or learning new skills to increase their start values.

The team exceeded the important 49-point mark on the uneven parallel bars, as well, putting up a 49.10. Berg also scored a 9.90 on that event, moving Court to make the case for her winning the Pac-12 Specialist of the Week award.

The weakest event for the GymCats was the vault. While there were no terrible scores on the apparatus, there were also no exceptional ones. As a team, Arizona hovered in the 9.70’s throughout the event.

Despite the fact that Arizona didn’t have any major mistakes in the meet, they still weren’t able to catch Washington. The GymDawgs were just too good.

Washington broke the 49-point mark on two events and scored 48.925 on the other two. While Arizona was putting up a 48.650 on the vault in the first rotation, the GymDawgs were busy opening the meet with a 49.275 on the bars. They never looked back, following that with 48.925’s on both vault and floor exercise, and wrapping things up with a big 49.40 on the balance beam.

Maddi Leydin won the All-Around competition with a 39.150, beating out Washington’s Evanni Roberson (38.825) and Monica Riley (38.850). Court said he believes that Leydin can eventually score in the 39.40 range consistently.