If you want to honor the most accomplished senior class in years, one way to do it is to earn the highest team score since Feb. 20, 2004. That’s exactly what the Arizona GymCats did on senior night when they defeated Brigham Young by the score of 197.275 to 196.050.
“The only person who’s seen a 197 is me,” joked head coach John Court, who was an Arizona assistant for 19 years before taking over as head coach five years ago.
The last time UA scored over 197.275 came just over 19 years ago against Washington when the ‘Cats and the Huskies tied with scores of 197.300. The 197.275 was the third-highest score in program history, besting the 197.125 the GymCats got in 2015. That was the last time Arizona scored a 197 or better.
It was a perfect bow on the careers of a group of seniors who are the most accomplished since Court took over as head coach in March of 2018.
“This whole class has given it their all with this program, and it was just really great to see not only our class, but everyone come together and finally get the first 197 that any of us have ever had,” said senior Libby Orman.
Arizona honored a group of four who competed all four years and two more who were forced to medically retire before completing their college careers.
The group of four—Orman, Dani Nosek, Sirena Linton, and Malia Hargrove—were part of a group that was integral to Arizona’s success from its first season on campus. Two of them competed in nationals. One competed in every single meet over the past four years, and another is an All-American.
“They came here, and they took a risk on me,” Court said. “In that recruiting process, we’re like, hey, we want you to take the chance. We want you to come out and I want to do something that hasn’t been done in a while. And we need you to come here and help us change the game. And without a doubt they have done that as a group, and they are leaving the program better than they got it. And that’s all anyone could ever ask.”
In addition to group of four, the GymCats also honored Zaza Brovedani and Mackenzie Barile, both of whom had to medically retire. Brovedani attempted to come back her senior year after an Achilles rupture, but she was injured again and was on crutches during the ceremony. The seventh member of the group, Avery Stauffacher, was unable to attend.
“It’s such a brutal sport,” Court said. “College athletics is commitment, every single sport, every single level, and sometimes you leave when you’re done with it, and sometimes a sport, it’s like, I’m done with you. And you don’t know, you don’t get a choice, and that’s why it’s so important to give your all every day because the next day is not guaranteed. You know, when you’re an athlete or when you’re not an athlete, the next day is not guaranteed.”
Orman has also dealt with injuries this season and has not competed in every meet. She did not compete on senior night, but the other three were all crucial to putting up a historic score in what was the final home meet for at least two of them.
Hargrove competed in three of the four events, taking the night off only from the uneven bars after competing in the all-around in most of Arizona’s meets this season. She put up a trio of 9.925 scores on vault, balance beam, and floor exercise. All three were either the highest score or tied for the highest score on the event.
Another HUGE score for Malia with a 9.925 on beam! pic.twitter.com/WBnM5KhiDE— Arizona Gymnastics (@ArizonaGymCats) March 11, 2023
Linton was just behind Hargrove on beam, getting a season-high 9.900. She also scored a 9.800 on bars.
Season-high 9.900 for Sirena on beam! pic.twitter.com/tY0LUPMKyS— Arizona Gymnastics (@ArizonaGymCats) March 11, 2023
Nosek earned a 9.850 on vault, tying for fifth on the event and matching her career high.
The big meet score will go a long way towards helping Arizona’s national qualifying score. The GymCats currently sit at No. 29 in NQS with a 196.300. That would force them to compete in the play-in round of regionals. Moving up just one spot would put them straight into the second round and dropping the 195.325 they earned against UCLA two weeks ago could push them there.
“The score helps drop that 195,” Court said. “So, we move up NQS wise. Maybe the highest NQS in [program] history, and we still have room to climb.”
The GymCats have another meet this weekend. They will leave for Cal on Saturday. They will compete in a nonconference quad meet in Berkeley on Sunday before going to the Pac-12 Championships next weekend. Then, it’s on to regionals and hopefully nationals.
After that, the seniors each have different plans. Nosek has been accepted to the School of Dentistry at Indiana University. Orman has a sales and marketing job lined up with Ford Motor Company.
As for Linton and Hargrove, both were coy about their plans. Hargrove is studying to become a pharmacist. Linton has been working towards her degree in nutrition. Both could be back for their fifth season, though.
“I have another year of eligibility, so who knows?” Linton said when asked about her plans next year.
“No comment,” Hargrove said with a smile.
Court wasn’t giving up the plan, either.
“As far as fifth-year seniors, I’ll address that after the season,” Court said. “What is supposed to happen will certainly happen.”