Arizona gymnastics head coach Bill Ryden has a pleasant problem: There’s so much depth on the team this season that, each week he must figure out a new lineup.
Ryden said that the No. 17 Gymcats (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12 Conference) are the deepest squad the UA has had in years.
“We have a strong team. I think that we have a really huge upside,” Ryden said. “We have a lot of new faces, a lot of new routines and a lot of depth — more than we have had in the past and, certainly, that bodes well for the future.”
At each meet, six gymnasts compete in each event, but Arizona may use 13 athletes sometimes — whereas in the past, it used nine. Almost all the Gymcats train in all the events, but the added depth allows them to pick who is doing the best in each event each week, Ryden said.
“It gives us more options as a coaching staff, and we’re able to weather the nagging injuries, the illnesses, the whatever that come with every team,” Ryden said.
In their first two meets, only one Gymcat has competed in the all-around, senior Jordan Williams.
“Really, I don’t think we have any weaknesses this year,” Williams said. “Our only weakness this year will be our head — getting ahead of the game.”
As of Jan. 20, the Gymcats are ranked No. 12 on the floor exercise, No. 13 on the vault, No. 14 on the uneven bars and No. 31 on the balance beam.
“I feel that we have a really strong team. We have a lot of talent this year,” junior Allie Flores said. “Throughout my three years, I haven’t been with a team that’s had this much depth.”
Ryden said the UA features gymnasts that can “hit it out of the park” and so has “great role players.”
“I have high hopes,” Ryden said. “It’s hard to know how far this team can go, but it has huge potential, just because of the depth and the improved gymnastics of all the returners.”
Junior Kristin Klarenbach is ranked No. 10 on the floor, Williams is ranked No. 19 in the all-around, Klarenbach and sophomore Shelby Edwards are No. 22 on the vault and Edwards is No. 31 on the beam.
Before the season, the Gymcats’ schedule was ranked as the eighth toughest in the country. After facing No. 12 Stanford on the road last week, Arizona hosts No. 1 Oklahoma on Saturday in its first home meet.
“In our conference, gymnastics is huge,” Ryden said. “We’re the only conference in the country where every single school that sponsors the sport made the postseason last year, so every meet we have is really, really hard.”
The Pac-12 features No. 4 Utah, No. 8 UCLA, the Cardinal, No. 16 Oregon State, Arizona, No. 21 Washington, No. 23 ASU and No. 25 Cal, but Ryden said he likes the rough schedule and that it toughens them up.
“We have a really talented group of girls, and we should go really far,” Williams said.
—Follow James Kelley @jameskelley520