Gymnastics rolls by UCLA

By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 29, 1996

Robert Henry Becker
Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA freshman Kristin McDermott takes on the uneven bars against UCLA and Stanford.


The Arizona gymnastic team's 192.6-191.35 come-from-behind victory over No. 4 UCLA Saturday night at McKale Center was, in a nutshell, the stuff heart attacks are made of.

After falling three times on the beam, the 7th-ranked Wildcats (6-0) gave the 1,255 in attendance a breathtaking performance in the floor exercise to hold off the Bruins and No. 13 Stanford (191.05).

"That was exciting," UA senior Karen Tierney said. "We haven't beaten them (UCLA) in a long time. It just feels great."

"We tried to give it to (UCLA) on beam and they came right back and gave it to us," UA coach Jim Gault said. "We had our best floor routine of the year, and that won the meet."

But Arizona was not the only team to be striken with the beam bug. The Cardinal and Bruins themselves combined for seven falls, with even Bruin All-American Stella Umeh yielding to the curse put on the beam.

"It was a little frustrating, just because the kids have been looking so good in practice," Gault said. "On Friday, I judged each beam routine and hardly found anything wrong. It still is the pressure of competition that really hits on that event, but tonight it effected everyone. Kids were falling right and left all night."

The Wildcats came out focused on vault and gave their most consistent performance of the year. Out of the five scores they had to keep, the lowest was a 9.65. But the highlight was freshman Heidi Hornbeek, who recorded a 9.9 in both of her vault attempts.

"We came in a little nervous, but our good start on vault settled us down," Hornbeek said.

But Arizona was not done yet. Their rapidly building momentum carried onto the bars, with the Wildcats recording four marks between 9.6 and 9.75.

Through two events, Arizona found themselves pacing the field with a 97.050. But it was then the great beam distaster occured, with three Wildcats recording scores under 9.3.

"That has pretty much been the pattern this year. We hit vault and bars strong, but then pull an el-foldo on the beam," Gault said. "After the beam, I just went by and gave each kid performing on the floor a green light, which means to let it all out."

And that was exactly what they did. Freshman Kristin McDermott started the ball rolling with a 9.825, with Tierney following up with a dramatic 9.75. But those two were just a preface to the nearly flawless effort by Hornbeek, who received a perfect 10 from one judge. Hornbeek's score of 9.95 set a new record for Arizona gymnasts in that event.

"We were all ready to give a good performance," Hornbeek said. "I felt pretty confident going into my routine. It is always exciting to get a ten."

While UCLA All-American Leah Homma took the all-around with a

39.225, Hornbeek finished a close second with a 39.175.

"Tonight was a great meet for us. It has been about three years since we beat UCLA," Gault said. "But we are going to meet UCLA again in two weeks, and we know that they will be ready for us, especially in their gym."