Before Arizona gymnastics coach Tabitha Yim left Tucson last week to become the head coach of her alma mater, Stanford, she offered Gabby Bouza-Lazo a spot on the UA roster. Arizona State, Iowa and Oklahoma offered scholarships.
But Bouza-Lazo, who lives in Rio Rico and commuted to Tucson’s Arizona Dynamics gym five days a week, instead accepted a scholarship to Boise State, which finished the 2017 season ranked No. 13 in the NCAA.
The Arizona Dynamics gymnasium, coached by Gina Mueller-Martin, might be the hot bed of recruiting in Tucson, any sport. Of those currently training under Mueller-Martin, seven are considered to be Division I-level recruits. Michigan has already got a commitment from Madison Mariani, a senior at Sabino High School; before Yim left for Stanford, she got a commitment from Madison Courney, a sophomore at Mountain View.
Sophomores Halli Mayberry of Canyon del Oro and Kiersten Belkoff of Catalina Foothills are also Pac-12-level recruits; Belkoff’s sister, Corinne, has been a two-year regular at Arizona State.
But few have more compelling back-stories than Bouza-Lazo, who was so coachable that Mueller-Martin says “she’s a wonderful young lady; I miss her daily.”
“I chose Boise State because it offered a pre-dentistry major and the other schools who recruited me did not,” Bouza-Lazo says.
Bouza-Lazo was born in Cuba, the daughter of a neurosurgeon who fled Cuba when Gabby was 4. Gabby, her mother and younger brother were not allowed to leave Cuba for 3½ years.
“My dad took his case to the United Nations and at that time Cuba kicked us out of the country,” Bouza-Lazo remembers. “We were political refugees, but ultimately my mother became an American citizen. We lived in Southern California. Then we moved to the Rio Rico area so my father could visit us more conveniently. Because he got his medical degree in Cuba, he is only allowed to practice medicine in Spanish-speaking countries. He drives to be with us almost every weekend, eight or nine hours each way. In the summer we’ll be together for an entire month.”
Mueller-Martin was impressed not just by Bouza-Lazo’s gymnastics ability, but by her commitment to drive about 150 miles, round trip per day, to train at the Arizona Dynamics facility.
“I could barely speak English when I started training in Tucson,” Bouza-Lazo says. “I had to do it day by day, word by word. It took me about a year to become fluent. In eight months all I did was academics and gymnastics. With my drive to Tucson, I didn’t have time for much of a social life.”
Bouza-Lazo moved to Idaho last weekend to begin her fall semester at Boise State, a team that was ranked as high as No. 7 nationally last season.