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Arizona GymCats to compete in Denver Regional in NCAA postseason

Arizona gymnast Bailey McCabe performs on the uneven parallel bars against BYU on Mar. 10, 2023.
Photo by Marison Bilagody / Arizona Athletics

It should have been the first year under the new NCAA gymnastics postseason format that Arizona gymnastics did not have to compete in the first round or “play-in meet” at regionals. The GymCats finished 28th in the final rankings of the season, which is the last spot automatically slotted into the second round. Instead, the Wildcats will be in that opening round while No. 29 West Virginia gets to automatically advance simply because of geography.

Arizona will go to Denver and face North Carolina for a chance to advance. The explanation was laid out by gymnastics blog Balance Beam Situation: “So first of all, our annual ‘royally f*****d for no reason’ team is Arizona, which finished the season ranked #28, yet has to compete in a play-in meet in Denver, while #29 West Virginia gets to advance straight to the regional semifinal in Pittsburgh. So glad the season matters more than what state you happen to be in. I’m going to need John Court to assemble the local lords and storm a castle somewhere.”

The blog went on to explain that the strict geographical rules for teams didn’t make sense when the NCAA was sending individuals from Long Island to the regional site at UCLA and the UC Davis individuals to the regional site in Pittsburgh.

After the Pac-12 Championships on Saturday, Arizona head coach John Court had been philosophical about the possibility of the play-in round. His team didn’t get a score that helped them in the final standings, but he felt they performed “very good postseason gymnastics.” He pointed out that none of the teams in the first session of the conference championship got a score that would help them.

“Now let’s just get placed somewhere,” Court said after the Pac-12 meet. “If it’s the play-in, fine. If it’s not, fine. But we have to get everybody ready and go play.”

Arizona has been slotted into the play-in every year since the new format was adopted. The GymCats advanced to the second round two years ago when Temple could not compete due to COVID-19 issues within that program. Last year, they advanced by defeating West Virginia in Norman, Okla.

If the entire team does not advance from the opening round, four individual gymnasts will go through as individuals. Seniors Malia Hargrove (vault, floor exercise, balance beam) and Sirena Linton (balance beam) are set to move forward. Junior Jessica Castles (balance beam) and sophomore Alysen Fears (uneven parallel bars) are, as well.

Hargrove advanced to nationals as an individual floor competitor two years ago. Linton went to nationals last year on balance beam, finishing tied for seventh and as a second team All-American.