By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 23, 1998

Gymnastics team to face nation's elite

The UA gymnastics team has every reason to have a low level of confidence entering this weekend's meets against the first, second and fourth-best squads in the nation.

The No. 12 Wildcats (1-1) are forced to perform without two of their top gymnasts while facing a grueling three-day stretch against top-ranked Georgia, second-ranked UCLA and fourth-ranked Michigan. The Wildcats host the Bruins at McKale Center tonight at 7:30 (admission is free to students with a UA ID) then board a plane for a Sunday afternoon meeting with Georgia and Michigan in Athens, Ga.

But even though the road ahead looks daunting, the UA coaching staff is still confident the team will keep focused.

"We have to enter this weekend only worried about one thing, and that's how the Arizona gymnastics team will perform," UA head coach Jim Gault said. "We can't get wrapped up in trying to go out and beat a UCLA or Georgia and forget what we have to do out there."

Arizona is looking to rebound against a tough loss it suffered to fifth-ranked Utah last weekend.

The Wildcats are now led by junior Kristin McDermott and seniors Tenli Poggemeyer and Rose McLaughlin.

McDermott turned in Arizona's top all around performance against Utah and is once again slated in that role. Poggemeyer, who is currently battling a broken rib injury, should provide a boost on the floor exercise where she is averaging a 9.76 mark over the last two meets.

McLaughlin led the team in scoring on both the bars (9.675) and beam (9.65) against Utah.

"We really have a great team atmosphere and I think that we will rally together and perform well this weekend," McDermott said. "Losing both Heidi (Hornbeek) and Maureen (Kealey) has hurt, but we are still a pretty good team."

While this weekend's competition is going to be fierce, Gault's main concern is just keeping the remainder of his team healthy.

"Usually in January you have a lot of injuries due to vacations over the break, but we really can't afford to lose any more kids," Gault said. "We just have to play within our capabilities and hit some routines. If we do that we can compete with anybody."

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