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Chrissy Berg shines, but the Arizona GymCats drop home meet to Utah

COLLEGE GYMNASTICS: JAN 18 Washington at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A lot has changed for the No. 4 Utah Red Rocks since last year. Long-time coach Megan Marsden joined her husband Greg in retirement last spring, turning full leadership over to former co-head coach Tom Farden. MyKayla Skinner is off pursuing her Olympic dreams again. The team is as dominant as ever, though, as they showed in their 197.300 to 195.975 victory over the No. 21 Arizona GymCats on Saturday afternoon.

The loss wasn’t what concerned Arizona head coach John Court, though. The errors that left points on the table were a bigger issue, although not an insurmountable one.

“At the end of the day, 195.975,” Court said. “We left quite a bit on the table tonight. And it’s about tightening things up in practice and being the team that we want to be in the month of February, because if we can be the team that we want to be in the month of February, our March and April will be really good.”

The disappointment in leaving those points on the table was actually a positive for the team.

“I think the athletes and the coaches, they’re not satisfied one bit,” Court said. “But we are getting better. We are showing some growth. It is still a very good score. And let’s face it a year ago, we would be doing the dance, doing the crazy dance, because we got this. And now we’re like, ‘No, we can do better than this. We can do seven more tenths better than this.’ And that’s great. It’s great to have that mindset. Just not only from the coaching staff, but also from the athletes as well. Because they want it, you know. They want it. They want to do well, and that’s the difference. These seniors want to leave it a better program than when they came in as freshmen, and everyone’s pulling the rope in the same direction. It’s great to see.”

Once again, the GymCats started strong on the vault, opening the meet with a 49.025. Senior Maddi Leydin tied three members of the Red Rocks for second on the apparatus with a 9.850 despite having a big jump forward on her landing. She was one of four athletes for Arizona who scored at least a 9.800 on the event.

Chrissy Berg showed why she is one of the best athletes around on the uneven parallel bars, winning the event with a 9.950. She tied Utah’s Sydney Soloski with the highest score in the meet on any event. Soloski earned her 9.950 on the floor exercise.

“That’s the type of athlete that Chrissy is,” Court said. “That’s the caliber. She’s a national-level bar worker. So when she does that, it is no surprise.”

In a new honor bestowed at Arizona meets, each coach chooses a gymnast of the meet for their team. Berg was that gymnast for the GymCats. Not only did she have the 9.950 on bars, but she put up a 9.825 on floor exercise, an event that was a bit shaky overall for Arizona. But it wasn’t just about the scores.

“I mean score helps, but we look at what happened in that moment,” Court said. “You know, what did you do? And with Chrissy I think bars was pretty obvious. You went 9.95, you won the meet, but also she did a good floor routine. A good floor routine when we needed to have a good floor routine.... That’s her executing. That is her playing her role to the maximum And she’s also probably the loudest supporter of her teammates. It doesn’t matter if she’s in this corner of the gym or on the training table, you always hear Chrissy’s voice just showing that senior leadership.”

In addition to the big day by Berg, fellow senior Heather Swanson tied her career high on the bars with a 9.80. Freshman Kennedi Davis, who sat out last week’s meet with illness, returned to put up a career high on floor exercise. She also earned a 9.80.

Court is looking forward to a long week to heal the GymCats’ remaining injuries and prepare for their trip to face No. 3 UCLA in Westwood next Sunday.

“As a coach, I can look at this and say...four out of six people had errors (on balance beam),” Court said. “And that’s something that we have to work on this week in practice, because we can’t make those errors next week. We can’t make those errors next week and expect to score well. Because when you go on the road, you have to be clearly better than you are when you’re home as far as when you’re executing.”

If the team can clean up balance beam and floor, they could find themselves with scores above 49 on every event. Scores well above 196 could become what’s expected from Arizona every week. The foundations for that legacy would be firmly established.

John Court’s full post-meet press conference

Hear what Arizona Gymnastics coach John Court had to say after their meet vs. No. 4 Utah. The Wildcats had a score of 195.975, slightly above their season average.

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, February 1, 2020