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Freshmen help Arizona GymCats win home opener

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Sophomore Kennedi Davis is named gymnast of the meet at the Arizona GymCats’ home opener.
Courtesy of Arizona Athletics

The No. 13 Arizona GymCats opened their season last week, taking on the preseason No. 2 Louisiana State Tigers. With a team fairly balanced between seasoned veterans and promising newcomers, Arizona went into the final rotation just .050 behind last season’s SEC champions before ultimately losing.

In their home opener, they hoped to build on that. Mission accomplished.

Arizona hosted No. 11 Western Michigan, Iowa State and Rutgers at McKale Center Saturday afternoon. They walked away with three wins, coming out on top of the quad meet. Iowa State finished second with a score of 195.750, Rutgers came in third with a 194.250, and Western Michigan was fourth with a 191.80.

The wins move Arizona’s record to 3-1 on the season. More important in the sport of gymnastics, they scored 195.950 overall. That was an improvement of .925 over their opening week scores. In the world of gymnastics, that’s a big jump.

The GymCats scored better than 49 points on balance beam and floor exercise. With 50 being a perfect score, regular scores exceeding 49 are what squads shoot for if they want to be competitive in the postseason. Arizona had a 49.10 on beam and a 49.00 on floor.

The team got strong contributions from their veterans, but their freshmen and sophomores are already showing that the future is bright for this team. Six of the team’s seven freshman competed with only Sirena Linton sitting out due to illness.

The underclassmen didn’t just compete, though. They grabbed big scores for their team.

Sophomore Kennedi Davis was chosen gymnast of the meet by her coaches. Davis had an unfortunate deduction on beam last week when the team failed to move the board after she did her mount. Her score of 9.80 was docked .30. There were no such mishaps this week.

Davis started out with a team high 9.800 on vault. She bettered that on balance beam, getting a 9.825—and no deductions—this week while leading off the rotation. Then, she wrapped things up with a 9.775 on floor exercise.

“Kennedi Davis has had a great preseason of training, so what she’s doing is no surprise,” head coach John Court said. “She averaged 9.8 over three events tonight, stuck her vault, opened up on beam. I can’t say enough good things about her to be so productive this early in the season. You know, it says a lot about her and her work ethic.”

The GymCats got off to a solid start on an event that is typically their weakest—vault. After putting up a 48.475 last weekend in Baton Rouge, they were able to improve that to a 48.850 this week.

In addition to Davis, the freshmen had a big impact on that improvement. While Arizona dropped the 9.650 of Danielle Nosek, the 9.775 put up by Malia Hargrove tied for the second-highest vault score on the team.

Freshman Zaza Brovedani made her presence felt on bars and balance beam. The newcomer from Oakland scored a 9.750 on bars last week. This week, she improved on that with a 9.875, matching Arizona’s senior bars specialist Chrissy Berg for the team high.

On beam, Brovedani threw in a 9.825, trailing only senior Courtney Cowles for the team high. Fellow freshman Avery Stauffacher wasn’t far behind with a 9.80.

On floor exercise, it was freshman Libby Orman making a statement. The GymCats were led by senior Maddi Leydin, who put up a big 9.90, just .025 off her career high. Right behind her was Orman with a 9.825.

Not long after he was named the permanent head coach, Court said that the only way to improve on vault and floor exercise was through recruiting. The performance of his sophomores and freshmen in the early going back him up.

“It’s just nice to see people who haven’t played, let’s say, last year or even the year before doing some really, really quality work and they’re being competitive. And that’s really the slogan for the season, from the first day of practice and for all the freshmen that we have been recruiting for a couple of years. We want to be a competitive team. We want to grow our program. You have to have a really good programmatic foundation before you can win anything, and I believe that we’re building that.”

The GymCats travel to Sacramento, Calif. to take on Sacramento State next week before returning to McKale for their Pac-12 opener against Oregon State on Jan. 25.