Arizona's Gymnasts Finish Fourth at Regionals
TUCSON, Ariz.The University of Arizona women's gymnastics team finished fourth with a score of 194.100 at the NCAA Region III Championships Friday night in front of a crowd of 1,009, in the McKale Center. The Wildcats made their 14th-consecutive trip to the postseason but missed qualifying for one of the two regional team berths to the NCAA Championships. Fifth-ranked Nebraska (30-5 overall) and seventh-ranked Louisiana State (19-5-1 overall) finished first and second, respectively, and will advance to the NCAA Championships on April 13-15, in Boise, Idaho.
Nebraska led the field with a 196.875, LSU posted a 195.650, and No. 18 Arizona State landed in third with a 195.500. Illinois-Chicago (193.650) and Missouri (190.975) rounded out the regional field in fifth and sixth place. Top-seeded Nebraska won the vault and bars team events, and Cornhusker senior Heather Brink took the vault (10.000), bars (9.975) and all-around (39.700) titles. LSU, the regional's No. 2 seed, took the floor team event and tied Nebraska for team honors on beam. Tiger sophomore Nicki Arnstad won the floor crown with a 9.950.
Fourth-seeded Arizona (7-19 overall) experienced some uncharacteristic falls on bars and beam, and the Wildcats found themselves in sixth place after two events. Following a bye during the third rotation, Arizona roared back on floor and vault in the fourth and fifth rotations. The UA scored a season-high 49.175 on vault in Arizona's last event of the meet, and the score is the second-highest mark in school history. Arizona's meet total of 194.100 is the fifth-highest team score of the season.
Individually for the Wildcats, sophomore Randi Liljenquist won the beam title with a 9.900 and will advance to the NCAA Championships to compete in the event. Liljenquist was Arizona's top finisher in the all-around, ending the meet in third with a 39.275her ninth all-around score this season over 39.000. She tied a career-high 9.850 on vault and tied for sixth in the event, and she finished seventh on floor with a 9.825.
Senior Heidi Hornbeek, a seven-time All-Pac-10 and six-time All-America selection, competed in her last meet in McKale Center. Hornbeek finished second on vault with a 9.900, tied for 11th on bars with a 9.750, and closed out the meet tied for sixth in the all-around with a 39.050. Hornbeek has scored over the 39.000 mark in six out of the last seven competitions.
Junior Kara Fry tied for sixth in the all-around (39.050) and finished fourth on beam (9.850). Fry tied a career-high 9.725 on vault and tied for 11th on bars with a 9.750. Freshman Nikki Beyschau scored a career-high 9.875 on vault and finished third in the event, and she tied for 11th in the all-around with a 38.475. Senior Gretchen Diaz set a career-high 9.725 on vault in the final meet of her Wildcat career.
"I am really happy with how we came back," said Arizona head coach Bill Ryden. "Our four all-arounders (Beyschau, Fry, Hornbeek, Liljenquist) came out fighting, and Heidi (Hornbeek) should not have been competing at all. She has three bulging disks in her back and three permanent back fractures. But, regardless of whether this is Heidi's last meet, she showed why she has defined the sport at Arizona. I am very proud of the entire team because the gymnasts never gave up."