The Arizona gymnastics team is getting some unexpected help from two freshmen as it heads to NCAA regionals this weekend.
Shana Sangston and Jordan Williams have been a huge lift for the injury-riddled Wildcats. Both have made their presence known during the beam event, steadily improving all year. The duo will need to keep their production level high if Arizona wants a chance to advance to nationals.
""They are only going to get better,"" said head coach Bill Ryden. ""They have adapted well, but I think it was a shock to them with the amount of work and how much pressure there is in competition. They are both doing an amazing job and we certainly wouldn't be this far without them.""
Sangston and Williams joined an already talented team, which only lost one senior last year, but were able to crack the rotation. During the first meet of the season, against Utah State, they both competed in the vault and beam events.
The freshman class this year has a much different role from last year's class, which was thrown into the fire due to the vast amount of injuries. This year's class has had some more time to gain experience.
""Last year we had no options,"" Ryden said. ""Especially on, like, bars. If you could walk, you were going, didn't matter.""
It is also less stressful for the coaching staff because these freshmen already have experience.
""I think it was amazing. I didn't expect to do as much as I am for the team,"" Sangston said. ""It's a really good feeling.""
""It was an experience,"" Williams said. ""It's really hard coming in and getting used to everything, but the team helps out a lot. It's hard because it is a completely different environment, but overall it was amazing.""
The pair will get its first taste of a national postseason meet this weekend as the Wildcats head to Colorado for regionals.
The coaching staff considers the regional grouping to be one of the toughest in the country. With five of the six teams in the top 20, including No. 1 Florida, it will be a tall task for Arizona, but Ryden is confident in his squad.
""We know that we can compete with them,"" Ryden said. ""It is wide open, we are not intimidated at all. We have already beat BYU numerous times, and we have beat Boise.""
The meet will take place at the University of Denver.
If Arizona places in the top two at the meet they will be able to advance to nationals. If the team falls out of the top two, an individual gymnast can still claim a spot for nationals by winning an event with a 9.800 or higher.
Quirk still working out the kinks
Sophomore all-arounder Molly Quirk is still rehabbing the injuries she sustained during the Pacific 10 Conference championships.
Quirk fell off the beam, spraining her knee and ankle, and was forced to sit out the final two events during the meet.
""I'm still a little sore,"" Quirk said. ""But nothing that is not expected after you have a fall like that.""
Quirk expects to compete during the team's regional meet this weekend but is unsure if she will be able to compete all-around.