Arizona gymnastics made history on Monday by qualifying for its 29th consecutive regional competition. The Wildcats finished the regular season with a 10-4-1 record and a team RQS score of 196.445.
“This is our 29th straight year, which is a department record and makes us very proud that we keep that going,” Arizona gymnastics coach Bill Ryden said.
The No. 18 GymCats will travel to Columbus, Ohio, to compete against No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 UCLA, No. 21 Central Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio State on April 4. Arizona will hold the No. 3 seed in the regional.
Michigan has qualified for the NCAA Championships 21 times and is averaging a team score of 197.143. UCLA has won 20 NCAA regional titles and is averaging a team score of 196.768. Central Michigan averages 195.110 this season and has made the regional competition for the 12th straight season. Ohio State will be making its 37th NCAA regional appearance and average 195.169. Kentucky earns its 11th straight NCAA regional berth and its 27th appearance, averaging 195.468.
The road to the championship will be a difficult one for the Wildcats. The championship bracket consists of 36 teams and 30 all-around competitors. A total of 12 teams will advance to the national championships. Arizona will be without its senior leader and captain Allie Flores.
“We can’t take that lightly, because there are so many good teams in the country, and now we are down to 36 and everybody else is gone,” Ryden said. “The Columbus regional is obviously going to be a very high level of gymnastics, but I feel good about what we’ll do and feel very confident about how this team competes.”
One of the teams the Wildcats will have the opportunity to compete against is one they know quite well. They have already faced UCLA in competition this season, and the two teams share a close connection. UCLA gymnast Jordan Williams competed for Arizona for three years before transferring due to an injury.
“No different than it’s been before,” Ryden said. “We’re a performance sport, so there’s no offense; there’s no defense. It’s not about who’s on their team or our team; we just have to do our job. For this team, they haven’t been fazed by anyone or anybody, that’s for sure.”
Adversity and overcoming challenges has been the story of the GymCats’ season. When one gymnast goes down, the next one steps up and takes her place. Just take a look at freshman Madison Cindric. She was forced into all-around competition after Flores’ injury.
But the real story is how well she has performed in the role. In just her first-ever NCAA collegiate appearance in the all-around competition and on the uneven bars, she nailed a 9.950 routine.
“It’s awesome to compete in all-around as a freshman,” Cindric said. “I just knew that I had to do what the team needed and step up since what happened to Allie and just do the best I could for the team.”
Also stepping up late in the season is junior Jessie Sisler, who is coming off a 9.950 floor performance that won her a share of the Pac-12 Conference Floor Championship. The feat was made more impressive as she tied with an Olympian, UCLA’s Samantha Peszek, and Utah’s 10-time All-American, Georgia Dabritz.
“We really don’t care because the ceiling on the scores are 10.0, and we can do 10.0 gymnastics,” Ryden said. “This is not about the resume. This is about the routine and the moment, and we can do just as good gymnastics as anybody else in that meet.”
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