AllSportsTucson Phoenix Correspondent Brittany Bowyer
Brittany Bowyer is a freelance journalist who started her career as an intern for a small sports website back in 2015. Since then, she’s obtained her master’s degree in Sports Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and is in her fourth year of covering various levels of sports across a broad range of platforms in Arizona. You can follow her on twitter @bbowyer07
Each year, the gymnasts at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University take the floor to represent their school in the battle for the Territorial Cup. Fighting for each and every tenth, the stakes are raised as the rivals not only search for the win, but also to help contribute to the overall Territorial Cup Series with a point.
As COVID cancellations have impacted nearly every schedule imaginable, both of these teams picked up an extra competition against each other after Stanford was forced to cancel due to county restrictions on getting back in the gym to prepare with enough time for the season.
Knowing a cancellation from Stanford was a possibility, Sun Devil Head Coach Jay Santos previously stated that he and Wildcat Head Coach John Court had been discussing the possibility of adding the meet should the cancellation take place. Shortly after Stanford announced they would not be prepared for the competition and the cancellation was finalized, ASU and U of A added an extra mid-week rivalry to their schedule.
For the gymnasts on both squads, this was another opportunity that highlighted exactly what it meant for each individual to represent their university in the rivalry. The meaning, however, was a lot deeper for a number of members who grew up in the Forty Eighth State.
“For me, it’s just kind of like a dream come true. It’s something I’ve wanted ever since I was little considering I grew up watching the GymCats and I went to the meets every single year. So it’s still kinda surreal to me and everyday feels like a blessing. I just love how now I can be something that I’ve always wanted to be growing up,” Halli Mayberry said.
Mayberry is just one of six girls on the roster who remained in-state. In fact, she’s one of two girls who were blessed enough to have the opportunity to represent their hometown school. Her teammate, freshman Madison Courney, also is a Tucson native.
Another Arizona native, sophomore Sirena Linton, didn’t even know if she would be doing gymnastics in college due to injuries. Late in the process, she was able to find a home at Arizona where she could continue chasing her dreams.
“Like Hallie said, it’s a dream come true to be offered this opportunity, so I think every time I go out onto the floor I just take that with me and take advantage of every moment,” said Linton.
Other local gymnasts for the Wildcats include sophomores Makenzie Barile and Avery Stauffacher, along with junior Mackinzie Kane.
Arizona State has four in-state girls on their roster, which includes freshman Cienna Samiley, sophomore Gracie Reeves, along with juniors Megan Thompson and Kaitlin Harvey.
“I am from Arizona, so I know it’s a really big part of Arizona (the state’s) history and I know so many people who went to both ASU and U of A, so it’s pretty crazy that I get to represent ASU,” Reeves said.
“Especially since I am from Arizona and I’ve seen what this program has gone through the years, it’s just really cool that I can be a part of that change.”
“The rivalry means a ton to be competitive and show of all of our hard work and the best routines we’ve got as a team. Also, having pride in ASU and keeping that Territorial Cup at ASU in the sport of gymnastics,” Thompson said.
And while the rivalry may be heated, it’s an oddly friendly competition. High-level competitive gymnastics on the Junior Olympic scene is a small but broad community where athletes from different clubs across the state are all at least familiar with one another. For many of these girls, seeing old friends is a welcomed occasion that comes along with the rivalry.
“It’s cool to see them pursuing their dreams as well and just being able to continue competing against the people that we did in club is fun,” Mayberry said.
“I know a few girls on the team because of JO and I competed against them, and I actually did club gym with one of them when I was really young, Sirena Linton, so it’s really cool… But you’re still here to do your job, so it’s cool to see them but you know that rivalry is still there,” Reeves said.
As rivalries often bring out the best in each team, the blazing hot Sun Devils came out to put up a season high 197.450, while the young U of A Wildcats, who are suffering from a slew of injuries as well, posted a 194.750.
Because the original Territorial Cup competition was still scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 6, it was determined that the point towards the overall series would be awarded based on the results of that day.
For some, it may seem as if the Sun Devils have an unfair advantage with hosting both competitions at home instead of splitting the series, but the GymCats don’t seem to mind it. In fact, they feel as if they actually have a bit more of an advantage in this situation than in other travel meets, having just competed in the same atmosphere on the same equipment less than two weeks before.
“I feel like it gives us a sense of being familiar because we’ve already competed there once, so it’s just a way to improve because we already know we’ve already done it before but know we can get better,” Mayberry said.
No matter the time, day or location, the goal each individual member of the team has remains the same: To give it their best effort each and every time they perform.
“We just did our jobs, and that’s what I want to do this meet. I want to just go out there and give it my all and really show off how hard I’ve been working, as well as the team,” Reeves said.
“I’m focusing on making those small details even better and doing my best for the team and remembering to stay focused on that and the fact I’m capable of going up there and putting my best foot forward,” Thompson said.
“Just being able to go out there with confidence and know I’m going to hit this routine and I can have my teammates back if something happens is really important to me. To recognize that, yeah, we are underclass heavy but we have a lot of potential in that, and we can use that to our advantage,” Linton said.
While no. 7 Arizona State will look to make it six straight against their rivals from down South, the Wildcats will look to stop the Devils in their tracks with an upset victory. The action from Desert Financial Arena in Tempe begins on Sat. at 4pm and is available to be live streamed on Pac12+. You can also follow both Arizona and Arizona State on Twitter for updates from the event.