She was a national champion on the balance beam at Oklahoma. In just four years, she has made herself an indispensable part of Arizona gymnastics and coached a player to All-American status. It was enough to get assistant gymnastics coach Taylor Spears a promotion to associate head coach.
“Taylor has been part of this journey the last four years and she is valued as a person, coach, and mentor to our student-athletes,” head coach John Court said in a statement. “She has exceeded several expectations and has shown growth and a desire to elevate our program. The future at Arizona is very bright and she will thrive in her new role.”
Spears was hired as an assistant when Court took over the program after serving his first season as interim. She has been by his side while they built the program back up to the point where it sent individual qualifiers to the national championships two straight years.
In 2021, Malia Hargrove went to nationals on floor exercise. This year, it was Sirena Linton, who finished in the top eight on balance beam at nationals and received WCGA second-team All-American honors.
Spears coaches the balance beam, making the trajectory of Linton’s career especially relevant to the coach’s promotion. No one at Arizona had been named an All-American on the beam since Katie Matusik did it in 2012. Prior to Linton, only Matusik and Stacy Fawlkes had ever earned such a designation on the event.
Just knowing that she’s being coached by someone of Spears’ stature had a huge impact on Linton. She used it as part of her motivation before competing in regionals at Oklahoma, where she ultimately qualified for nationals.
“I was telling myself before I went, ‘You’re getting coached by Taylor Spears in Oklahoma, on beam,” Linton said after regionals. “That was incredible. So I just took that fire, and I ran with it.”
As a team, the GymCats ended 2022 ranked No. 25 on the beam. That’s a nine-rank improvement since 2019. The team has also received a final national qualifying score of at least 49.0 on beam each year over that period.
Spears has also been recognized for her work in other areas of gymnastics. In 2020, she was named the Region 4 Assistant Coach of the Year for her work with the team’s culture, academics, recruiting, and leotard designs.
Since she arrived at Arizona, the GymCats have had two WCGA All-Americans, two All-Pac-12 honorees, and 24 WCGA Academic All-Americans.