UA GymCats narrowly miss huge upset of No. 1 Sooners

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                </div>  The Arizona GymCats posted their highest team totals in a decade, entered the University of Arizona record books with the 15th-highest score in program history, and capped off their […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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The Arizona GymCats posted their highest team totals in a decade, entered the University of Arizona record books with the 15th-highest score in program history, and capped off their gymnastics performance Saturday with a 49.425 score on the floor exercise, which qualifies for 10th-best in school history.

And they still lost yesterday’s meet with the Oklahoma Sooners.

Unfortunately, the No. 17 women’s gymnastics team in the country picked their first home meet of the season to put up the big numbers because the Sooners are the No. 1 team in the country.  The Wildcats challenged throughout the match-up with the nation’s best before Oklahoma squeezed out a 197.575 – 196.925 win to run their season record to 3-0.

A crowd of  2,166 enthusiastic fans showed up in McKale Center to provide some support for the Cats, who were coming off a disappointing razor-thin loss to No. 12 Stanford last week on the road.  The Cats fell to the Cardinal, 195.925 – 195.850 in a tri-meet that included Sacramento State, which Arizona did beat.

Stanford and Oklahoma are providing this year’s squad with some early tests, which will be helpful as the Cats try to navigate one of the toughest schedules in the nation.  Oklahoma would have to be considered the biggest challenge on the schedule; the Sooners have been included among the top five programs in the country for the past 26 regular-season rankings.

Arizona’s schedule includes eight ranked teams and the GymCats are competing in a conference that is loaded with talent. Eight Pac-12 programs were ranked among the nation’s top 25 in the pre-season poll.

The Cats earned their No. 17 pre-season ranking following a third-place finish last year in the NCAA Regional Championships, their 27th consecutive appearance in regionals.

Their narrow loss to Oklahoma yesterday did provide a stage for the Cats to display the kind of talent they have on this year’s roster.  They dominated the floor event, scoring a 49.425 by sweeping the top three scores; on the beam, each gymnast either scored or tied a career high as the team posted a 49.050 total, the highest of this season; and the 49.250 on the bars was also tops for this season.

Junior Allie Flores led the way on the bars, posting a season-high 49.250 and Shelby Edwards was the team’s top scorer with 9.850.  The big push in the final event, the floor exercise, came thanks to the top three finishes by Kristin Klarenbach (9.925) and Amber Wobma, and Flores, who tied for second with a score of 9.90 each.

Head coach Bill Ryden orchestrated some late changes to the line-ups for both beam and floor events and changed the order from what was originally planned.  It seemed to make a difference, and he credited his team for being able to adapt to the changes.

“The girls took it all in stride,” he said after the meet.  “We certainly have one of the more talented teams that we’ve had in a couple of years.  The girls stepped up to the plate, and they just love competing at home.”

They’ll get another opportunity to play to the home crowd on Saturday when they take on yet another ranked team, No. 21 Washington, in the annual Pink Meet.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)