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GymCats fall just short of an upset

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The 17th-ranked University of Arizona gymnastics team turned in a record-setting performance, but fell in a closely contested meet to No. 1 Oklahoma, 197.575-196.925, before a crowd of 2,166 on Saturday evening in McKale Center.

The Wildcats' team total of 196.925 is the fifth-highest score in program history, including their best since the 2004 season. Arizona closed the night with a 49.425 on the floor exercise, which tied for 10th-best in school history.

"Success breeds success," head coach Bill Ryden said. "When you are on a roll, it helps to keep building the scores. That's how it's supposed to work. In the first couple of meets, we kept breaking that momentum. We certainly have one of the more talented teams that we've had in a couple of years. The girls stepped up to the plate, and they just love competing at home."

In the first rotation of the night, the Wildcats began with a strong start on vault posting 49.200.

Leading the Wildcats was Kristin Klarenbach with a third-place score of 9.875. Behind her were twin scores of 9.850 from Amber Wobma and Shelby Edwards. Wobma's score tied her career high. Freshman Mackenzie Valentin posted a new season-high with her score of 9.825. Jordan Williams rounded out the rotation with a 9.800.

From vault, the Wildcat scored a 49.250 on bars, despite a fall.

"Bars stepped up," Ryden said. "That was our highest bars score all year, and after the fall from Jordan (Williams), I thought there was a fantastic effort."

They were led by junior Allie Flores who tied her career high and posted the second best score on bars with a 9.900. Gabby Laub, Lexi Mills, and Krysten Howard all contributed with scores of 9.875, 9.850, and 9.825 respectively.  Laub posted a new career high and Howard's effort was her lineup debut. Edwards ended the rotation earning a 9.800.

"The team has witnessed quite a few injuries in their day," Ryden said. "They know that it happens and while they don't like to see it, they know they have a job to do. I'm very proud of Shelby (Edwards) and Allie (Flores) for getting their head clear and finishing up the bar rotation and the rest of the team for re- grouping and taking the rest of the meet home."

Entering the beam rotation, the Cats had a running total of 147.500 and were on their way to finishing the meet with two of their highest scores of the season.

"The real story was honestly beam and floor," Ryden said. "We did some late lineup changes and were throwing people in and out while also changing the order, but the girls took it all in stride. The effort by every single girl was exceptional."

On beam, each gymnast either scored or tied a new career high for the Wildcats. Edwards led with a score of 9.850. Mills posted a 9.825. Both Wobma and Flores contributed scores of 9.800. Sangston concluded the third rotation with a 9.775. The Cats earned a beam total of 49.050, the highest of this season.

On their strongest event of the night, the Cats scored a 49.425 on floor. Arizona dominated the event, winning the top-three scores.

Klarenbach tied her career high, 9.925, to win the first place title. Wobma and Flores earned career highs with scores of 9.900 each and both tied for second place. Valentin made her floor debut posting a score of 9.850. Sangston also tied her career high with a score of 9.850.

"Allie (Flores) wasn't even scheduled to do floors," Ryden said. "She didn't practice floor all week, but said she said she could do it and what a great effort by her. It shows a lot of heart more than anything. The scores are the scores, but the heart that was shown from everyone of the team, that was what was really special about tonight."

From here, Arizona will host the Pink Meet against Pac-12 opponent No. 21 Washington on Saturday, Feb. 1 at 4 p.m. MST.

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