Home sweet home
The Gymcats' fan base is unlike that of any other team on campus.
During any given meet you will find everyone from students to retired couples to young children just starting out with gymnastics watching eagerly in the stands.
After last Friday's meet against ASU, the entire Arizona gymnastics team was made available to the crowd as they signed posters that were given out at the door. Hundreds of kids lined up to get the prized autographs.
""Our gymnasts are very accessible, kids are always welcome to stop by the gym and talk to their favorite Gymcat,"" said assistant coach John Court. ""All of our girls were once one of those little kids, so it's important not to get a big head and remember where your roots are.""
Lori Menendez brings her 10-year-old daughter to the meets to expose her to the team and meet her favorite Gymcat, Rebecca Cardenas.
""It helps motivate my daughter,"" Menendez said. ""She loves watching them compete. She is a gymnast at Gymnastics World.""
Unlike other sports, the crowd doesn't show any maliciousness to opposing gymnasts, instead they convey all of their energy showing the Gymcats love and support. The energy in the crowd increases as the team's introduction plays, and the cheers get louder as each gymnast is announced.
""I think it's great,"" said head coach Bill Ryden. ""I feel like we have a great product, and we have great, knowledgeable fans. We get a lot of support from the community but we also get a ton of support from the other athletes in the department.""
Dennis Weimer brings his 9- and 10-year-old daughters to the meets to diversify their outlook on life and to expose them to athletics. Weimer admits that his kids get most excited when they get to see Wilbur and Wilma.
There has been a consistent couple in the stands for the last 18 years. Al and Jodean Ryden started to come as soon as their son Bill became an assistant coach for the program.
""The team is great, and the atmosphere is amazing,"" Jodean said.
One Gymcat was a constant fixture in the crowd as she grew up. Deanna Graham, a Tucson native, competed at Springs Gymnastics and has been around the team for the majority of her life.
""The crowd was awesome, there was so many people,"" Graham said. ""It looked like the most people I have seen in I don't even know how long. A lot of the girls from the clubs around Tucson were there too. That's just so inspiring. I remember being one of those girls.
""It was something I looked forward to — just getting out of practice early and coming to see the U of A girls compete.""
Graham calls it a dream come true that she is able to be a Gymcat and sign an autograph for one of those girls on a club team.
""I hope it's a great influence on them,"" Ryden said. ""I really wanted to help the growth of Tucson gymnastics. We want to be a great example for those kids.""