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Arizona gymnastics signs another highly-ranked recruiting class, heads to final Pac-12 season

arizona-gymnastics-gymcats-brigham-young-byu-senior-night-hargrove-linton-orman-nosek-recap-197 Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

The Arizona GymCats will prepare for their final season in the Pac-12 with their annual showcase on Saturday, Dec. 16. The preparations for their future in the Big 12 are also underway with the welcoming of a new recruiting class last month.

Head coach John Court and his staff signed a group of six during the early signing period in November. The class is ranked 20th by College Gym News. It will follow the well-regarded 2023 class which just landed on campus this fall. That group of six includes two four-star recruits and two three-star recruits according to CGN.

“It’s nice to have back-to-back years of top 20 recruiting classes,” Court said. “It’s always a nice feeling. But at the end of the day, we want to have great people who can do the gymnastics at a highly competitive level and want to drive academically. If we can get all three of those things and people who have a great love for Arizona, they’re going to fit in here just fine.”

It has taken Court and his staff a few years to get to the point where they are bringing in classes like that, but he feels like the program is now making headway in the area of recruiting.

“It’s gotten better each year,” Court said. “I think it’s been really consistent, certainly the last three years.”

After spending years as Arizona’s recruiting coordinator when he was an assistant, Court has stayed heavily involved as a head coach. He thinks it helps put parents at ease to know the person who is running the program

“I don’t staff out,” Court said. “A lot of head coaches staff out their recruiting, then they just come in at the end. I’m there at the ground level. I’m there for the weekly phone calls, and then involve staff, as well, between Taylor (Spears) and Kylie (Kratchwell). The majority visits, I’ve done most of them. I’ve done them for years.”

Since high school gymnastics programs are few and far between, the recruiting is done entirely through clubs. Court doesn’t think that’s much different than what coaches in other sports do. He also thinks the things he’s looking for are fairly common for college coaches across sports. He’s building depth in all four events, but he’s also bringing in recruits who can successfully navigate college.

“You first have to look at the person,” Court said. “You want to make sure that this is a good person. Second, you want to make sure that you can do the things academically that we want them to do. We have a very high standard here in our program for academics...They have to be strong where we are weak so we are always getting better. Obviously, we go after the all-rounders first in recruiting. You want your specialists to be stronger where you’re weaker, where you’re losing to graduation. That’s important. That’s how you get better. So a lot of it, I think it’s the same sport to sport, at least with the coaches that I’ve talked to in other sports around the building.”

This group of six will likely be replacing several seniors. While seniors participating in winter sports like gymnastics still have an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic, the Wildcats only returned one of their “super seniors” this season, all-arounder Malia Hargrove. A second fifth-year senior—former All-American Sirena Linton—is competing for Arkansas this season, but the rest of last year’s senior class has moved to the next stage of their lives.

Arizona has eight gymnasts listed as either seniors or redshirt seniors on this season’s roster. That’s a big group to replace, although Court notes that three of those athletes compete in just one event. Hargrove will leave especially big shoes to fill.

“The more competitive events that you can have out of each person, the better off you’re always going to be,” Court said. “Obviously, we’re losing to graduation a few vaulters and some bar routines, beam routines, floor routines, so we can make sure that we’re adding two to three 9.8-plus routines across the board on every event we’re going to be in a better spot. I feel like we’ve done that.”

The group of six will join a team that will be much lighter on senior leadership next year. Assuming none of this year’s senior class returns, Arizona will have just three seniors on the roster. They will join four juniors, making the entire upperclass contingent smaller than this year’s senior class.

Some of the newcomers will undoubtedly step into roles immediately. Vault could be the most important rotation to fill. Hargrove has been Arizona’s strongest vaulter for the last few years, missing out on going to nationals last season due to the tiebreaking rules. She has also been to nationals on the floor exercise.

Hargrove is the only Arizona gymnast to regularly perform a vault that is valued out of a 10.0. Everyone else in the rotation typically performs a vault that cannot score higher than 9.95 even if it’s done perfectly. Fortunately, Arizona is bringing in some strong vaulters in the class.

Jessa Janicke has a career high of 9.90 on vault. That’s the highest personal best on any of the events for her. It’s also the highest personal best on any event for anyone in the class.

“I like [vault] I think just because you can be super aggressive,” Janicke said. “At meets, with all the nerves and adrenaline, it really helps in vault if you can just be super powerful.”

Janicke will come to Tucson with some familiarity with the program. Senior GymCat Elena Deets is from the same town and trained at the same gym. She would sometimes give Janicke a ride home from practice since they were in the same training group.

Teagan White is already performing a 10.0 vault. She has a personal best of 9.525 on the event.

For those who like unique skills, White brings that to the vaulting table. She performs a full-on, pike-off vault that’s rarely done in college gymnastics.

“It’s a full twist on and a back pike off,” Court said. “So, it combines a twist and a flip—they all do—but her full-on is done before her hands touch the table.”

It’s White’s favorite event, but it took some brainstorming to decide that she was going to perform it. White and her coaches at Show-Me Gymnastics in Missouri were trying to find the best way to get her a 10.0 start value.

“I was trying the half-on, and I was going to do a pike off,” White said. “And then I had another coach come along and suggest this vault, and it worked really well. It got consistent for me really quickly.”

Phoenix-area gymnast Aubrey Krohnfeldt could help the GymCats in multiple events. As far as her career highs, her scores are probably the most consistent across the board of any of the new signees.

While Krohnfeldt has high personal bests on the leg events (VT - 9.75, FX - 9.825), she also has a strong personal high on the bars (9.775). Even her lowest personal best—9.625 on balance beam—is solid for a Level 10 gymnast who is almost a year away from stepping on campus.

If she had to pick, bars is where Krohnfeldt has the most fun. It just wasn’t always the case.

“Growing up doing bars, I was never good at it,” she said. “But it just clicked for me like two years ago, maybe two and a half. I changed my routine, and it’s just something I’ve loved doing. I got really good at swinging and I just love feeling the motion of swinging around the bar. It might sound weird, but I just love it so much. My favorite skills are double layouts on bars. I just think they’re so fun.”

The trio of Janicke, White, and Krohnfeldt will join Olivia Childs, Amelia Rock, and Jillian Silvers. The four-star ratings given to Janicke and Krohnfeldt combined with Rock’s three-star rating account for the class ranking assigned by CGN.

The sextet is still a year away from competing for Arizona, though. The GymCats head into this season ranked No. 22 by WCGA. They will introduce this year’s 24th-ranked freshman class of Sophie Derr, Ainsley Greever, Haley Havenor, Sophia Maisel, Abigayle Martin, and Tirzah Wise at 2 p.m. MST on Saturday.