Sophomore Banholzer lands a spot in UA's gymnastics program

By Arlie Rahn

Arizona Daily Wildcat

She is only a sophomore, but University of Arizona gymnast Cami Banholzer already has set a school record ... for most frequent flyer miles. It figures, though she comes from a military family, and learned to accept moving around long before coming to college.

Therefore, Banholzer, a Virginia native, decided to transfer from a well-known San Jose State program after a disappointing first year.

"My first year at San Jose State was real, real hard. The level of gymnastics was completely different than the way it is here," Banholzer said. "The coaching was not what I wanted at all. Everything was very unorganized and nothing was done at a professional level."

"Cami was an excellent tumbler for us," said San Jose State coach Jackie Walker. "But I think that our coaching staff and herself had conflicting styles and it didn't work out."

After looking at a few schools, Banholzer started to express interest in Arizona for a second time.

"Cami had first written to us during her senior year (in high school)," UA coach Jim Gault said. "We didn't recruit her because we didn't have a spot, but had we known the type of person and gymnast she is, we might have changed our mind.

"So, after a year at the other school, she found it was just not meeting her needs. She called us and we asked her to come out, but we didn't have any scholarships to give her. But she's been a real contributor for this team and we're real thankful she decided to come here."

And once she arrived in the program, she knew she had to make an adjustment.

"Making the change in coaching styles and programs was tough," Banholzer said, "but I kind of have to say I'm used to it just because my father is in the military and we've moved around so much."

But Banholzer has made the transition in style and is emerging as one of Arizona's rising stars.

"It is a chore to change coaches because each coach has their own style," Gault said. "But she has adapted pretty well. I think one reason for this is that she likes to have someone pay attention to her and tell her the things she needs to do to compete at a higher level, which is something we concentrate on here."

This season, Banholzer has added some much-needed depth on the beam and in the floor exercise. She is coming off a 9.7 effort in the Pacific 10 Conference Championships that helped the Wildcats snare third place. But her season high in the floor, a 9.725, was recorded in the Tucson Newspaper Invitational while filling in for Arizona's top gymnast Karen Tierney, who suffered a knee injury in the previous meet.

"When Karen went out, I remember thinking that the

team really needs to pull together now, and I think we did," Banholzer said.

"Cami has done a great job on the floor exercise for us, especially considering the injury to Karen," Gault said. "She is a great athlete with powerful legs, and we hope that she can work her way into the all-around."

While the all-around is a future goal for Banholzer, she is content competing in the floor exercise and helping the team reach their ultimate goal the Nationals in Athens, Ga, which begin April 20.

"In our last few meets we've had great team unity, and that could carry us to Nationals," Banholzer said. "So hopefully we can keep that up because right now that is our greatest asset."

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