(Photo: Tyler Paley/WCSN)
The new year is here which means college gymnastics is ramping up and the Arizona State University Gym Devils are ready to begin their 2017 slate.
Last season, ASU head coach Rene Lyst was fired after her second season at the helm of the Gym Devils. Lyst was placed on indefinite administrative leave on Mar. 4, leaving assistant coach Ralph Rosso as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. On May 27, ASU athletic director Ray Anderson announced he hired former Eastern Michigan University coach Jay Santos as the new head coach. Santos coached at EMU for two years and brought the Mustangs to No. 17 nationally, the highest in school history. Santos’s wife, Jessica, was brought on as ASU’s associate head coach. She previously coached at Eastern Michigan as well.
Six of the 16 gymnasts on the 2017 ASU team are sophomores and eight are incoming freshmen. The returning sophomores include Corinne Belkoff, Justine Callis, Eileen Imbus, Katelyn Lentz, Heather Udowitch and Morgan Wilson. The only senior on the team is Beka Conrad, who will compete in her fourth season with ASU. Nichelle Christopherson is the lone junior Sun Devil after transferring from the University of Michigan where she competed for two years.
The Maroon and Gold intrasquad meet was held Dec. 18 at Wells Fargo Arena. Three freshmen turned in particularly notable performances during the meet. Graycee Rushton was a standout on the vault, while Jessica Szafranski stood out on bars and beam. Jessica Ginn rounded out the freshman class’ inaugural appearance with a top performance on the floor routine. Though every member of the freshman class has the potential to compete as an all around athlete, only Morgan Hart actually competed in all four disciplines during the meet. Sophomore Heather Udowitch did not compete in the meet due to her continuing recovery from shoulder surgery in the summer. However, she believes she will compete this season. The meet was evenly matched and the maroon and gold teams tied the meet 8-8.
ASU has a noteworthy amount of depth this season, something that has been nonexistent the past two years. With 14 of the 16 gymnasts having all-around abilities, the team should be able to have multiple gymnasts on every apparatus this year, something that wasn’t always a given after numerous injuries last season.
ON THE DOCKET
ASU will start on the road traveling to Iowa State and Denver for the first two meets before returning home for only one meet against UC Davis. Then, ASU is back on the road to face California in its first Pac-12 meet on Jan. 28.
Another rebuilding year is on the docket for the Gym Devils this season. A new coaching staff coupled with more than half of the roster being newcomers gives fans an uncertain outlook on their team. A big factor will be team health; if the freshmen are able to adapt and stay healthy the team may heat up in the second half of the season when Pac-12 competition is underway.