GymCats hope teamwork and bonding lead to success
Arizona gymnast Kennady Schneider flips during her floor routine during Arizona's 197.580-196.375 loss to Utah in McKale Center on Saturday. Schneider and the Wildcats have taken up mimicking each other's routines as a method to improve team work.
Arizona gymnastics is ranked No. 27 in the country on floor exercise, but the GymCats are much more than a ranking when it comes to their floor routines. During each routine, the Arizona gymnasts standing on the side of the mat mimic the choreography performed by the gymnast on the mat, bringing a whole new meaning to the word teamwork.
Even UA assistant coach Meredith Paulicivic finds herself doing the movements during the meets.
“They are so used to seeing it so many times in a row in the gym that they just pick out their favorite parts, and sometimes, I find myself doing it,” Paulicivic said. “It’s just kind of a fun thing. It’s not something you rehearse; it’s just something that happens.”
For Arizona head coach Bill Ryden, the movements are about motivating whoever is competing in the moment. He firmly believes that when the athletes not competing are involved in the routine, the gymnasts on the floor will earn higher scores.
“It’s because they are so close,” Ryden said. “It really does motivate and makes it that much more fun for the girl out on the floor. Part of the great floor exercise is really loving what you do. They really love the routine, and when your teammates are into it and you’re into it, believe it or not, [it] leads to higher scores.”
In their last meet against No. 4 Utah, Kennady Schneider did just that on floor, earning a career high of 9.875.
“Floor is usually a really fun event for me after a few hiccups last weekend in Washington,” Schneider said. “It felt like I’m back on track and I’m better then ever and I’m ready to keep scoring high.”
The freshman’s routine is very different compared to others’ in NCAA gymnastics. She choreographed the whole routine herself and said that when her teammates mimic her choreography, it inspires her on the mat.
“To see them catch on to what I love to do so much really makes me happy,” Schneider said. “To see them doing that with me just makes me more excited in my floor routine and to keep going.”
Many gymnasts might cave under the pressure of competing in front of thousands of fans. However, Schneider and the rest of the GymCats know that they have 13 teammates behind them, even if they stumble and make a mistake.
“I think part of it is [that] we see each other do floor routines every day, so we naturally pick up on things,” Shelby Edwards said. “It’s kind of a unity thing; we are all there doing it with you, and we are all behind you, even though you are the only one on the floor.”
Although Schneider has only competed in five meets in her NCAA career, she has continued to improve. Her first floor routine earned just a 9.675 against then-No. 4 Alabama. Now, she is able to say with confidence that her latest routine earned two-tenths of a point higher.
“I really like to play off the crowd, because I like to perform a lot,” Schneider said. “I like to make a lot of facial expressions and try to make as many people smile as I can. That’s my ultimate goal: just to put on a great show.”
After the meet against Utah, dozens of fans swarmed the freshman to take photos and sign autographs. With three years of eligibility after this season, Schneider will only continue to improve and meet the caliber of the gymnasts that she has always idolized.
“I think it just adds a little bit more of my personality and my spunk, because I like to have fun,” Schneider said. “I don’t really like the traditional gymnastics dance, so I think it really shows who I am and what I’m about.