The Arizona gymnastics team went to Utah and gave it all they had on Saturday, March 20, as they finished sixth place in the Pac-12 championships with a score of 195.400 in Maverik Center.
The GymCats participated in session one of the championships with Oregon State, Washington and Stanford.
It was a rough first rotation for the GymCats on the vault. Freshman Caroline Herry did score a career-high 9.750, but no GymCat managed to score in the 9.8 range. Even with their early struggles, the GymCats managed to hold onto second place with a score of 48.600. Washington led the way with a score of 49.000, Stanford was third at 48.200 and Oregon State last at 48.075.
The GymCats began the second rotation on the uneven bars and once again, they were not able to get off to a strong start. The first two routines only produced scores in the 9.6 range. To make matters worse, freshman Taylor Raskin fell on her dismount, resulting in three-straight low scores.
With their title hopes slipping away, sophomore Malia Hargrove and freshman Elena Deets came up clutch for the GymCats. Hargrove posted a score of 9.825 and Deets finished with a score of 9.875. Even with Hargrove and Deets’ valiant effort, the GymCats slipped into third place behind Washington and Stanford.
In an interview midway through the meet, head coach John Court spoke about how proud he was of Deets stepping up in a big moment at such a young age.
“That [score on the uneven bars] was her career-high,” Court told the Pac-12 Network. “That was a very big moment for her. Being a freshman in her first Pac-12 championship, she did an amazing job in the anchor spot. It was great to have her back in the lineup this week.”
Court acknowledged his team’s early struggles but was confident that they could bounce back.
“We swung a little tight on [the uneven] bars,” Court told the Pac-12 Network. “We are on the back half of the competition right now. We know that we have to [perform] some better gymnastics, dial in the landings and have that big performance factor if we want to finish this thing out.”
When the GymCats began the third rotation on the balance beam, it did not look as if that big performance was coming. The first few routines were riddled with balance checks and non-stuck landings, costing the GymCats valuable points.
Even freshman Jessica Castles, who is usually solid on beam, fell off the beam during her routine. With the day looking like it was over, Hargrove put the team on her back and performed a career-high 9.900. Sophomore Sirena Linton was last in the anchor spot, and she followed Hargrove’s lead and posted a score of 9.900. Linton and Hargrove’s scores tied Oregon State Beaver Madi Dagen for the meet high score during session one.
Still, the GymCats slipped into last place, even with those high scores of 9.900. Washington was the early favorite and it looked as if they had run away with the meet.
Then, out of nowhere, three Huskies fell off the balance beam during their final rotation, swinging the door of opportunity wide open, and the GymCats ran right through.
Now back in the mix of things, the GymCats knew they would need a big final rotation on floor exercise if they wanted to finish the day on top. Senior Laura Leigh Horton tumbled first, posting a career-high score of 9.850. Castles was able to rebound from her earlier fall on beam and posted a career-high score of 9.900. The GymCats made a ferocious effort in the end but fell short of Oregon State by 0.225 points.
Later in the day, session two took place with Utah, UCLA, Arizona State and Cal to decide the winner of the Pac-12 championship. Utah ended up winning the title with sophomore Maile O’Keefe dominating the competition. O’Keefe finished first on the uneven bars, balance beam, floor exercise and all-around points.
The GymCats will wait to see if they are selected to participate in Regional Championships during the NCAA selection show on Monday, March 22.
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