By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
TEMPE Ä Question: Since when has 80 percent been enough for the UA gymnastics team?
Answer: When that 80 percent comes from its top uneven bars performer, Becky Bowers, and when that 80 percent is as good as a lot of other performers' 100 percent.
A banged-up Bowers finished second in the conference in bars with a spectacular performance that helped Arizona edge eighth-ranked Oregon State and earn a third-place finish at the Pacific 10 Conference Championships Saturday night. The UA outscored OSU 193.45 to 193.4. No. 7 UCLA (195.4) and host Arizona State (195.15) paced the field of seven.
Bowers, hampered by an interior elbow strain, had touched the bars only once in the two weeks previous to the tournament, and was unable to practice her toughest move Ä the gienger to a blind full.
"I was definitely a little nervous because I swung a little on Tuesday and that was the first time I touched the bars since I fell two weeks ago," Bowers said. "I didn't even attempt the trick I fell on and injured myself until tonight in the meet, so it was a little nerve-racking."
"To have someone like that at the end of the rotation that can do that kind of job means so much for our team," UA coach Jim Gault said.
Meet accolades also went to UCLA freshman Stella Umah, whose all-around score of 39.375 took the Pac-10 title. ASU freshman Meagan Wright, who just graduated from high school in December, finished second with a 39.3.
"This is a good step for us going into regionals," Gault said, "especially since we've had a couple of disappointments in our last few meets."
After a bye, the Wildcats started out the night on the floor exercise. And while impressive performances were given by sophomore Cami Banholzer (9.7) and junior Darci Wambsgans (9.775), tough judging left Arizona with a 48.
"The judges were really hard on our scores," Wambsgans said. "We felt we deserved a little better than a 48. But we can't really put all of the blame on the judges, we also could've
done a little better in our execution."
After the disappointing start, the Wildcats were focused on giving a strong effort in the vault. After four solid vaults, including junior Jessica Marshall's career-high 9.85, Nicole Garrett and Wambsgans were poised to finish strong. Garrett set the stage with a fifth-place score of 9.875, but the show belonged to Wambsgans. After a solid first vault, she went for the whole ball of wax in her second. The result was a career and conference high of 9.950.
"It felt good, I've been waiting for that," Wambsgans said. "Usually when I hit a good first vault I relax for the second. But all year I've had trouble with my landing on that vault, so it felt good to finally hit it."
For the team, its score of 49.075 was the second highest in school history.
So going into the bars with a full head of steam from the vault, Arizona was ready to, like the phoenix itself, rise from its own ashes and contend for the championship.
Leading into Bowers' performance, UA received solid efforts from four of five gymnasts, with scores ranging from 9.625 to 9.85. Redshirt freshman Tenli Poggemeyer placed fifth with her 9.85 mark.
"We came in here lukewarm on the floor, sky-high on the vault, and solid on the bars," Gault said. "So we all had our fingers crossed going into the beam."
After two performances, however, the Wildcats' chances of a second-place finish looked dismal. Wambsgans (8.5) and Banholzer (9.0) followed up strong performances in other events with falls on the beam. Also, while this was going on, the first two Oregon State performers had just recorded a 9.675 and a 9.65 Ä and they still had its two top performers waiting in the wings.
But Arizona sucked it up and had four other performances above 9.475, the highlights coming from Poggemeyer Ä whose 9.775 was good enough for fifth overall Ä and Jenna Karadbil (9.7). Karadbil's performance was better than her score showed, and the UA coaching staff felt it deserved better.
"After two not-so-good performances, the girls pulled through real well. We only had to count one fall," Gault said. "But we were a little surprised with Jenna's score. It was disturbing. I mean, look at that routine. I didn't see anything that deserved that many points off."
But overall, the third-
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