By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat April 29, 1996
While the Arizona gymnastics team failed to reach the "Super Six" in the NCAA Championship by finishing seventh, they did show the nation one thing: The future of Arizona gymnastics is very bright.
With freshmen Heidi Hornbeek and Maureen Kealey reaching the individual finals in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Saturday, UA has two cornerstones on which to improve its program in the next three years.
"With the young people we have, and the nucleus we have returning, we should have a pretty good basis for a good season next year," head coach Jim Gault said.
But Hornbeek and Kealey were not just satisfied to make Saturday night's finals. Hornbeek took center stage as she recorded a perfect 10 in the floor exercise for a first-place tie with Alabama's Kim Kelly in the event. She also took fourth place in the bars competition with a 9.9. Kealey finished ninth in the bars with a 9.375.
"As a freshman, I didn't expect a lot, I just wanted to go out and do the routine and have fun doing it. Everyone else has been such an inspiration," Hornbeek said. "I saw such a wonderful performance as Kim set the stage, and I just went out and did the same routine I've done all year."
"Heidi and Maureen definitely have the talent and skills," Gault said. "They really showed something by competing the way they did in the finals."
Hornbeek and Kealey earned first team All-America honors for their performances, while freshman Kristin McDermott and senior Shane Allbritton were named second-team All-Americans in the beam event.
While UA did not qualify for the finals after placing fourth in their semifinal Thursday night (host Alabama won the title), Hornbeek finished in third place in the all-around with a 39.4. Kealey followed close behind with a 39.2, good enough for 10th place. Hornbeek's first-place finish in the bars (9.950), and third-place mark in the floor (9.925) were both good enough to qualify her for Saturday's finals.
"This was one of the most successful teams ever to perform at Arizona," Gault said. "We broke a lot of personal records, in addition to nearly every team record. At 36-10, I think a lot of teams wish they could have had a year like we did."