By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Coming off a successful weekend during Mardi Gras, where the Wildcats recorded their best score of the season, the sixth-ranked UA gymnastics team is ready for its home finale against No. 8 UCLA and UC-Santa Barbara tonight at 7:30 in McKale.
"We can't be unhappy with our performances in the last few meets, especially since we're still scoring in the 193 to 194 range without Karen (Tierney)," said UA coach Jim Gault. "As a team we're happy that we're doing well and in the top 10."
Two major reasons for the team's recent success has been redshirt freshman Tenli Poggemeyer and junior Darci Wambsgans. Poggemeyer has been Arizona's most consistent all-around performer all season averaging in the high 38-39 range. In last weekend's matchup against Louisiana State, she placed third with a 38.95 mark. Poggemeyer is also proving to be a force on the bars by consistently recording scores in the 9.8 area.
Wambsgans has also been a consistent performer for the Wildcats (10-3 overall, 2-0 in the Pacific 10 Conference) and has averaged an all-around score of 38.8 in her last three meets. She has been Arizona's best vault performer all year with her season-high score of 9.85 coming against Stanford a few weeks ago.
"Tenli and Darci have given us a good deal of consistency in the all-around this year," Gault said. "Their performances have been a major reason why we have recorded scores above 193 in our last few meets."
Another performer who has risen back to her former level has been senior Nicole Garrett. After a rocky start plagued with injuries, she has come on to add stability to the third spot in the all-around. Her recent consistency in the vault, recording a 9.825 or higher in her last three meets, have been a reason for Arizona's recent success in that event.
"Nicole has not really had a great year consistently. She has been falling on the bars all season, and when she finally regained some confidence in that event, she fell on beam," Gault said. "But hopefully her recent success is an indication of what's to come."
Rounding out the UA line-up will be the Pac-10 leader in the uneven bars, Becky Bowers, freshman Tracy Yerkes, also on the bars, and Jessica Marshall and freshman Michaela Grigg in the vault. Cami Banholzer, Jenna Karadbil and Shane Allbritton will lead Arizona on the beam, with Banholzer and Grigg competing in the floor exercise.
But Arizona will have plenty of competition in UCLA's three all-around performers: sophomore Leah Homma, freshman Stella Umeh and senior Kareema Marrow.
"Leah, Stella and Kareema each have the ability to take over a meet," said UCLA coach Valorie Kondos.
Homma is averaging a 39.060 in the all-around which is good enough for sixth in the nation. She also leads the team in the floor exercise (9.796 average) and bars (9.780 average). Umeh and Marrow have been solid performers and are both in the top 30 nationally in the all-around.
Some good news for the Wildcats is that Kondos is not sure if she is going to have all three compete in the all-around competition.
"Our all-around lineup is not final right now," Kondos said. "Stella is recovering from the flu and we want to make sure that Kareema, being a senior, is in good shape for our last home meet next weekend. We don't really have a problem with keeping someone out of the all-around because we feel we can go seven or eight deep in each event."
This meet could also give UCLA some national recognition going into the regionals.
"We would like to score over a 195 before the regionals to show that we deserve to be a contender for the national title," Kondos said. "We would like to be included with top performers in the nation, and a good meet could do that for us."
But Gault wants to successfully complete the Wildcats' Pac-10 schedule before he starts to worry about the regionals.
"All we can think of this weekend is that we're meeting UCLA, the Pac-10 is the thing now," Gault said. "If we do well against UCLA, we can go in the Pac-10 (championships) with a good confidence builder."
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