27 January 2018
While college sports are a matter of competitive pride for both athletes and fans, Arizona Interim Head Coach John Court said that this is a time when the gymnastics community needs to put its arms around everybody and just be there for them. In the week when Larry Nassar was sentenced to spend decades in prison for abusing women and girls in the gymnastics community, NCAA gymnastic teams around the country did this by donning teal ribbons and tweeted the hashtag #WeStandByYou in honor of the hundreds who were victimized. The third-ranked Utah Red Rocks and twenty-first ranked Arizona GymCats joined in the support of their fellow competitors at their meet in McKale Center last night.
Utah came into the meet with a 2-0 record, while Arizona has yet to win a meet this season. Court said that Utah is one of the teams who has a legitimate chance to take home the national title this season, with decorated athletes like former U.S. National Team member and last year’s NCAA All Around runner-up, Mykayla Skinner. On the other side, Arizona was led by strong performances from Lauryn Mattson and Payton Bellows, as well as a group that is improving its scores every week.
Despite facing a perennially tough Utah team, the Gymcats tied the Red Rocks on floor exercise, and trailed by only .250 on vault and one-tenth on uneven bars. The meet was lost on the balance beam, where Utah outscored Arizona 49.400 to 48.525. Court said that Arizona cannot have nights like this on the beam four weeks into the season. The night ended with Utah outscoring the GymCats 197.550 to 196.325 to win the meet.
On a positive note, freshman Payton Bellows tied Utah’s MaKenna Merrell for the night’s highest vault score, putting up a 9.95. Her coach praised her, noting that Arizona has not had a vault score that high in many years. He is pleased that she is learning to perform, rather than just tumble, allowing her to crack the rotation as a freshman. In the All Around, Madison Cindric came in second behind Utah’s Makenna Merrill.
The GymCats plan to take a couple of days off, then return to training for their upcoming meet in Berkeley. The following weekend, their former coach, Tabitha Yim, will be bringing her alma mater to McKale when the GymCats face off against Stanford. That meet will be held on Sunday, February 11th at noon MST. With strong crowds encouraging the GymCats the past two home meets, the athletes and coaches urged their fans to come watch them in person when they return to Tucson.