Just going to the NCAA National Championships for your sport is a big deal for any college athlete. If you can come home with something you’ve been working for since before you were in grade school, it’s that much sweeter. Arizona GymCat Sirena Linton did just that in Fort Worth on Thursday when her score qualified her for recognition as a second-team WCGA All-American on the balance beam.
“That’s always been a dream of mine to become an All-American,” Linton said. “I always joke with Taylor (Spears), and I tell her that I want my picture on the wall next to hers in our gym because we put our All-Americans up.”
Linton earned the honor by scoring a 9.9175 in her event. It was just short of her career high of 9.925. The score gave her one of the top eight scores on balance beam, qualifying her for All-America recognition.
She became the first Arizona gymnast to become an All-American since Christina Berg did it on the uneven bars in 2019. It places her among nine GymCats who have earned at least one All-America designation in 11 different years. Stacy Fawlkes earned three All-America honors in all-around, uneven bars, and balance beam in both 1992 and 1993, making her the most decorated Arizona gymnast ever in that regard. Linton joins Fawlkes and Katie Matusik in being an All-American on the beam for Arizona.
The trip to Fort Worth got off to a bit of a “bumpy ride” on the flight out, Arizona gymnastics head coach John Court said. Once they got there, it was all about the fun and getting the full experience. The coaches and Linton will stay in Fort Worth to attend team finals on Saturday.
“It’s really exciting, especially knowing that we have Utah in, which is a Pac-12 team,” Linton said. “I’m really excited to go support them and just go be able to watch high-grade gymnastics.”
The trio of Linton, Court, and assistant coach Taylor Spears left Tucson on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Linton had her training day in Dickies Arena. The individual gymnasts get about four 30-second turns on the apparatus they will compete, Court said.
“If you’re just doing the one event, you have to know what you’re doing up there,” Court said. “She...and Taylor practice that in the gym, so she was fine.”
On Thursday, she rotated with Minnesota as the Gophers competed as a team. It worked out well for Linton since her adopted team for the day started on beam.
“I didn’t have to wait around the whole meet to do that one routine, and I think that was the best thing for me,” Linton said.
It wasn’t just about the gymnastics, though. Supporting Minnesota and the other Pac-12 competitors was a big part of the day.
“They were awesome,” Linton said about the Gophers. “They welcomed me in with open arms and it felt like I was a part of their family for the day and they were cheering for me and I was following around on each event just cheering for them as well.”
Linton will return home with the recognition that the many Arizona gymnasts in the Ring of Honor have earned and memories of competing at the highest level of college gymnastics.