Injuries headline Sac State gymnastics season through 3 meets


Thomas Frey - The State Hornet

Sacramento State senior gymnast Caitlin Soliwoda prepares to start her uneven bars routine in the NorCal Classic Monday, Jan. 8 at Stanford. Soliwoda injured her heels on the landing which caused her to leave the event early and miss the next event on Jan. 12, but she made her return on Jan. 19 and scored a 38.975 in the all-around.

Thomas Frey

Through three meets this season, the Sacramento State gymnastics team hasn’t gotten off to the start that it visualized due in large part to the injuries of seniors Lauren Rice, Caitlin Soliwoda and Courtney Soliwoda.

All three qualified for the NCAA Regionals as juniors and headed into their senior seasons looking to build off the success they obtained a year ago.

Then the injury bug hit.

Courtney has suffered injuries since high school and that has caused her to never compete in the floor event at the collegiate level. While floor is by far the most glamourous and popular event, it also is the hardest routine on your body. Courtney, who has had multiple knee issues, said she has sat out of the floor event for precisely those reasons.

A month before the season started, it was reported by The State Hornet that she tore her Achilles and her gymnastics season and career looked like they were in jeopardy. Sac State coach Randy Solorio said it would be unlikely that she would participate in the first meet of the season — the NorCal Classic at Stanford — on Jan. 8.

Courtney then defied the odds. While she couldn’t compete on floor as she intended, she was able to compete on the balance beam and posted a 9.800.

“It was incredible,” Solorio said after the NorCal Classic. “Two weeks ago, she wasn’t walking, she was in a boot and in crutches, and she is slowly making her way back.”

Her twin sister, Caitlin, was set to compete in the NorCal Classic in all four events as an all-arounder, but on her first event, she injured her heels after competing in the uneven bars. She then competed in the next event and scored the second highest score on the team with a 9.700 on beam, before sitting out the rest of the meet.

Caitlin didn’t practice at all the rest of the week and was prepared to compete on just bars against Washington four days later, but was scratched at the last minute.

“We thought her heels would be a little better because we laid off of them all week, but they were still too tender,” Solorio said after the meet against Washington.

Solorio said that at this point in their gymnastics careers, they have done the routines so many times that the rest can be more important than the practice.

The Hornets nearly finished the Washington meet injury free, but in the final pass of the final routine in the final event, Rice landed strangely on her ankle with about 10 seconds to go in her floor routine. She went down immediately, having to be helped off the floor by coaches and teammates.

Rice then missed the meet against Utah State on Jan. 19, but she isn’t expected to miss the entire season, according to a source close to the team.

Thomas Frey – The State Hornet
Sacramento State senior gymnast Lauren Rice performs her balance beam routine in a 195.350-191.500 loss to the University of Washington Friday, Jan. 12 at the Nest. Rice was helped off the floor after suffering an ankle injury during her floor event.

Last season, Sac State scored above 193 in every meet, but its scores dropped to 192.875 and 191.500 in each of the first two meets this year.

“We need to work hard and push past injuries because the season just started,” junior Jackie Sampson said.

The Hornets accomplished that and eclipsed the 193 barrier Friday by scoring a 193.275 in the third meet of the season at Utah State.

While Rice missed the meet and didn’t travel, the Soliwoda sisters each came through with big scores to help the Hornets record their best score of the season. Caitlin was the second leading all-arounder in the entire meet with a score of 38.975 and recorded three scores at 9.700 or above, including a 9.825 in her first floor routine of the season.

Courtney participated in vault for the first time this season and recorded scores above 9.700 on beams and bars.

“It felt great to be back in three events,” Courtney said. “Three events down, one more to go. I’m not giving up on competing all-around anytime soon.”

However, the Hornets still lack the big score that Rice used to bring every meet. She has a career high of 39.350 in the all-around and Sac State has had to rely on many different gymnasts to fill in the holes left by injuries.

Senior Annie Juarez, who has had past injury issues, Sampson and freshman Jordyn Brent have shown they are capable of putting in those high scores, but the team has had at least two people fall on several events this season. Rice has a history of not falling and when she returns, the team will have some depth with Juarez, Sampson, Brent and others doing more routines.

For now, Sac State will next head to San Jose State on Friday at 7 p.m. to compete in The Event Center.