Malia Hargrove almost returned to nationals this season after tying for the regional title on vault last weekend. Tiebreakers kept her from going to nationals for the second time in three seasons, but she will be returning to Arizona gymnastics.
The program announced on Thursday afternoon that Hargrove will return for her fifth season with the GymCats. She has opted to take advantage of the extra year granted by the NCAA due to the pandemic.
She’s back. #BearDown pic.twitter.com/oub7JT2kkp— Arizona Gymnastics (@ArizonaGymCats) April 6, 2023
Hargrove took part in senior day festivities last month, but she was noncommittal about her plans for next season.
“No comment,” she said with a smile after the team put up its highest score in 19 years.
It makes sense both from an athletic and academic perspective. Hargrove is one of the team’s most consistently high-scoring athletes. She has a career high of 9.900 or better on all four events and an all-around career high of 39.550.
As she said in her announcement, she’s still chasing that elusive perfect 10. She has come close several times this season on vault, including a 9.975 at Oregon State and a 9.950 at regionals. The 9.975 included one judge giving her the 10.0 and the other giving her a 9.95.
Hargrove has also been very durable, competing in every meet over her entire career with the GymCats. She has competed in the all-around for significant portions of her career, although she stopped competing on the uneven bars about halfway through this season.
It also makes sense for Hargrove academically. She was originally an optics major but switched courses to pursue a future as a pharmacist after spending a summer working in a pharmacy. Arizona has a top 20 pharmacy program according to US News and World Report.
Hargrove will help provide a strong foundation for a team that is guaranteed to return 21 of the 24 routines performed at regionals. The GymCats could return all 24 if All-American Sirena Linton opts to join Hargrove and return for her fifth year.
Arizona’s incoming class ended ranked 24th according to College Gym News.
UPDATE: Linton announced her plans on Thursday afternoon. She will enter the transfer portal and pursue her master’s degree elsewhere.
When one chapter ends, a new one begins. With love, thank you Arizona! pic.twitter.com/7o6oZ1YXIL— SIRENA (@sirenalinton) April 6, 2023
Linton went to nationals on balance beam last season, finishing tied for seventh and as a second-team All-American. She is finishing her bachelor’s degree in nutrition at Arizona.