When they visited Utah last week, the No. 25 Arizona GymCats put up a season high 49.125 on the balance beam. It was the first time they had broken the important 49-point mark on the event all season.
Their return home to McKale Center on Friday night didn’t go so smoothly.
The GymCats struggled to put up the 9.8s and 9.9s they needed to challenge No. 11 Oregon State, scoring a 9.8 or better on just eight of their 24 routines. That wouldn’t do against a team like the Beavers, who went on to win by a score of 196.350 to 195.475.
The performance on the balance beam in the third rotation was what finally put the meet out of reach.
“We were kind of the Ice Capades up there on the balance beam,” Arizona head coach John Court said.
After the first rotation, the GymCats were only behind by 0.150. That was positive, especially considering that their opening event—the vault—has been their weakest event all season.
Maddi Leydin put up a big 9.850 on a new Yurchenko 1.5 vault, nearly equalling her career best.
“She hadn’t done that (vault) since probably she was a sophomore in high school competing on the international level,” Court said. “So, it was nice to get that fire back.”
The problem was that everyone else scored below 9.8 on the vault, including a 9.650 that the GymCats were forced to count.
Moving to the uneven bars should have been a chance for Arizona to make up points. They are typically a strong bar team, although they have been a bit inconsistent this season. While there were no falls, they lacked the precision they needed to make up ground on Oregon State.
“We weren’t as sharp as we would have liked to have been,” Court said. “It’s just the little things at the halfway point of the season. It’s hitting the handstands. Keeping your knees bent. We didn’t stick anything. If you have five routines and you don’t stick anything, that’s just a half-tenth to one-tenth just right there.”
The execution is on the athletes once the event starts, Court said, and he believes that his veteran bar workers will improve their execution.
“They’re not going to be satisfied with this,” he said.
Then came the balance beam. It started off shaky with Leydin scoring a 9.650. They would be able to drop that score, but they had to keep a 9.675 from Kennedi Davis. Only Haylie Hendrickson (9.825) and Courtney Cowles (9.800) scored above a 9.775.
Meanwhile, the Beavers were on floor exercise putting up nothing but 9.8s and 9.9s. After dropping McKenna Singley’s 9.550, their lowest score was Mary Jacobsen’s 9.800. They ended the rotation with a lead of 147.325 to 146.475.
While the meet was out of reach, the GymCats brought things to a positive conclusion with what is becoming one of their highest-scoring and most consistent events—floor exercise. It was their best event of the night, scoring their only 49-or-better when they hit 49.000 exactly.
Leydin, Heather Swanson and Chrissy Berg all scored a 9.8 or better on the final event. With Cowles and Hendrickson each throwing in a 9.775, Arizona ended on a high note. Just not quite high enough to catch the Beavers.
Court believes that they can be even better on the floor, though.
“We need to work on our performance factor a little bit,” he said. “Just engaging the fans and not just the teammates when we’re dancing.”
Leydin was the only athlete from either team who competed all-around. She scored a 39.075, adding a 9.825 on the floor exercise to her 9.850 on vault. Both scores were just .025 shy of her career highs on those events. She put up scores of 9.750 on the uneven bars and 9.650 on the balance beam.
The GymCats travel to Westwood next week to take on the defending champion UCLA Bruins. Court said that he thought the atmosphere at Utah had prepared his team for the Bruins, but it was still a big meet.
“Some of their gymnasts have broken the Internet,” he joked, referring to the Katelyn Ohashi floor routine that went viral and got the UCLA gymnast invited to the morning talk shows.
Arizona will not return to McKale until Mar. 15, when they host Louisiana State University in their final regular season meet of the year.
Think Pink and National Girls & Women in Sports Day
The GymCats wore pink to raise awareness for breast cancer during the meet. Once it was over, they took part in National Girls and Women in Sports Day by doing a Q&A session.
“They send a great message as young, strong, independent women,” Court said about his athletes. “All those little kids, they all listen to them, they all look up to them. They were once them. It’s their way of giving back and telling the truth, and helping the next person come through.”