Q & A with Head Coach Bill Ryden

Dec. 4, 2002

Q: Last season was one of the best in recent years for your team, how would you compare your team now to where your team was at this time last season?

A: We are a little bit behind last year's pace. We have been dealing with a lot of nagging injuries throughout the entire team. But things have been coming together recently. We were on a different schedule last year. We knew we had to be ready earlier because of the Maui Invitational. We have actually moved our training cycle back a bit because of our schedule this year. We are dealing with a lot of injuries we didn't have to deal with last year that are keeping this team from peaking, but we will get there.

Q: With the vault and beam intra-squad coming up on Dec. 10, what are you expecting of this team?

A: I'm expecting good vault and beam. I'm expecting a very high level of performance on those two events. Watching those two events in practice, I don't think they will be an issue for us. Our beam is phenomenal. The hardest part with beam will be picking the lineup. With vault, most of the gymnasts who have had to change their routines because of the new table have done so successfully. The question will be who will round out the vault lineup. I believe that intra-squad will be pretty successful and pretty error free, which is what I expect from this team.

Q: Are there any gymnasts trying new routines on vault and beam?

A: Jamie Schell, Katie Johnson and Nikki Beyschau will all be performing new vaults. Almost everyone on the team has a more difficult routine on beam then last year, and last year we had a great team on beam.

Q: Who do you see leading the team on vault and beam?

A: I think that Andi McCabe will continue to be one of the best vaulters in the Pac-10 Conference, as she was last year. We have more people who we anticipate to have high-scoring 10.0 start values on vault meet in and meet out. On beam, it's anyone's game. We had a lot of success on beam last year. Everyone has increased their difficulty. The bottom line is who can stick their routine with no wobbles. The freshmen will add some depth, but our returners are better then they were last year. It will be interesting. The line up can change at any time, because everyone is so much better on beam then they were last year.

Q: With the floor and bars intra-squad coming up on Dec. 20, what do you expect from your team?

A: I expect great floor routines. We have a great floor team. Bars will be interesting. We have a number of new routines and we have new gymnasts competing. Bars can be the one event where we have some growing pains for awhile. On bars, I'm hoping for a lot of no-fall bar routines like we did last year. On floor, I expect us to be ready there. Right now, we are juggling tumbling passes, trying to find out what are the best passes for the best scoring on floor.

Q: Who do you expect to lead on floor and bars?

A: Katie Johnson looks great on floor, Monica Bisordi looks great on floor. In fact, the entire sophomore class looks great on floor. The freshmen look good. Andi is now back from her knee surgery. She did her first back-to-back full floor sets yesterday, with her full-in and double tuck, all of her major tumbling with no spot. The person who has been the real surprise this fall has been Sheehan Lemley. From being a bar specialist last year, she is now close to challenging for a spot in the all-around. Her bar routine is twice as hard as it was last year and she has an incredible beam and floor routine. She is having a remarkable fall. She could shake up the lineup.

Q: Year after year your team faces the toughest competition out there. This year is no different. Where does your team compare to some of the teams you will be facing this season?

A: I think we can hold our own against every team we will face, but they are all very good. We don't have a single meet where we can afford not to be at our best and sometimes that can be taxing. Our team is just used to that level of competition. Winning and losing a meet will be a question for us, even if we are a top-10 team. UCLA is always strong. Utah, from how they looked last year and who they brought in this year could be very strong. Every Pac-10 team is better this year. Without a doubt, if we stood the same as last year and did not improve a bit, we would be struggling to be in the top half of our conference. Every other Pac-10 team is very good. The Pac-10 is a great conference.

Q: Last year, this squad had great team chemistry. How would you describe this year's team chemistry?

A: This year's chemistry is good. It's different from last year, the youngsters aren't youngsters anymore and the old leaders are gone. Everybody every year adapts to a new role, but I think that they all know what their new roles are. The bottom line is, they all have a sincere desire to succeed.

Q: You signed two strong gymnasts next season. What type of gymnast are you looking to sign in 2004?

A: Arizona has always historically had very strong all-arounders. We try to recruit all-around gymnasts. Right now, were looking at two scholarships for that 2004 class, and we will be looking for two strong all-around candidates to fill those spots. We are well into recruiting that class and we are looking for the best two all-around gymnasts who can make a significant impact right away. We are looking for someone who isn't a project. Like our freshmen this year, I want two gymnasts who can step in and make an immediate impact.

Q: How are your current freshmen doing so far this year and will they be able to make an impact during the season?

A: I think all of our freshmen are going to be fine. Abby Pearson and Jessamyn Salter are now starting to hit their stride. As of late, Jessamyn looks incredible. We are keeping Abby off bars this season. Hopefully next year she can attack all four events. Erin Muirhead had major ankle surgery in October. We expect her to be ready to make an impact by the second half of the season. Ultimately they can all make their marks. All three of them are very good vaulters. Abby is already doing very difficult vaults. I expect all three to compete more than one event. All three are very good on beam. They are all good enough to make an impact anywhere in our lineup.

Q: What is your main goal for the 2003 season?

A: To increase our consistency. We were pretty good last year, but out of 24 routines we would only have 22 hits. I would love to get to where we are 24 for 24, meet in meet out. That is a huge goal. I also want this team to be its sharpest going into the postseason. We had good performances at regionals and nationals last year, but we had a few sharper performances earlier in the season. If all of that happens, I'm not too worried about how well we will be. The one thing we need is six up, six hits, event for event, night after night.

Q: You have coached your share of All-America gymnasts. Do you feel anyone on this team has the potential to be an All-American?

A: Of course. To be an All-American, that is basically a one-shot wonder. In a lot of ways, being all-conference, in our conference is much more difficult to achieve. Any of our top performers have the possibility. To be an All-American, you have to hit that one day. We have some talented gymnasts on this team that could definitely be All-Americans.

Q: What will the team's schedule be like for the winter break?

A: Our gymnasts will get a little over a week off, and then we will back on Dec. 30 for two weeks of intense practice before we head off to Minneapolis.

Q: In the week before your first meet against Minnesota, what will you look for from your gymnasts when deciding the final lineup?

A: I will be looking for consistency and clean routines. We are looking for gymnasts who can get through good, consistent, clean routines.

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