(Photo: Tyler Paley/WCSN)
Arizona State University competed in the Pac-12 Championship this afternoon at the University of Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. The team came in last place in the first session consisting of Arizona, California, Washington and ASU.
The Gym Devils entered the championships coming off a 195.175-191.050 victory over Air Force in Tempe. They were looking to capitalize on this late season momentum by improving on 2014’s 7th place finish. However, the injuries that have followed ASU all season added to the challenge of a stacked field and the Gym Devils suffered through an afternoon of falls as a result. Juniors Carissa Kraus and Kristine Levin were both working through lower leg injuries and senior Natasha Sundby was dealing with the flu. Although all were able to compete, the health of the team seemed to become a factor as the meet went on.
ASU started the first rotation on floor with junior Stephanie Miceli leading off for the Gym Devils and scoring a 9.625. Junior Taylor Allex was consistent as usual, receiving a 9.825 to lead the team with a strong routine. The out-of-bounds flag was raised when Sundby stepped out during her last pass in what has been her best event all season. Sundby is ranked 15th in the Pac-12 on floor and still earned the second highest event score for the team with a 9.675.
The Gym Devils took to the vault in fourth place after amassing 48.425 points on the floor. Sundby, Allex, and junior Allie Salas led ASU in the second rotation, but although the Devils improved their score by a small margin, it was not enough to bring them up in the standings. Kraus, who was a top vaulter for the team last year and has slowly been working her way back into the lineup after an offseason injury, couldn’t stick her landing and after a big hop and her score of 9.375 was dropped from the team’s final score.
After two rotations, Washington led the field with 98.000 points and a very consistent team performance. Arizona State remained in fourth place with 96.900 points, but showed promise as both Allex and Sundby turned in strong performances in the opening rotations.
Arizona State approached the uneven bars for the third rotation, an apparatus which is usually one of their stronger events. Sophomore Beka Conrad got the Gym Devils off to a strong start, receiving a 9.725 after a clean routine. Senior Brianna Gades took a step on her landing but still managed to earn a 9.750 to continue the momentum. Miceli had a fall out of a handstand right before her dismount leaving her with a score of 9.125, and foreshadowing the action to come on the beam. Allie Salas scored a 9.775 and Gades and Kraus turned in a pair of 9.750s, giving ASU a final score of 48.700 for their highest scoring rotation of the meet.
After the third rotation, positions had shifted dramatically. California had taken the lead, edging Arizona 147.025 to 146.950 and leaving Washington and Arizona State in third and fourth place, respectively.
The last rotation left ASU with its lowest score on beam all season – a 47.100. The rotation started off shaky and got steadily worse. Conrad fell off the beam early in her routine, leaving her with a season low score of 9.050; she was followed by Gades who fell off the beam mid-routine and got another 9.050. However, the Gym Devils’ troubles did not end there. Next up, Allex had a substantial wobble and was left with an uncharacteristically low score of 9.650 while Sundby followed Conrad and Gades off the beam and on to the lowest score of the day with an 8.975. Miceli was able to put together a clean routine and was awarded a score of 9.750, but the Gym Devils ended the day with their lowest score of the meet.
Coach Rene Lyst was disappointed about the team’s performance on beam.
“Falls on beam is not what we expect to do in any way shape or form,” Lyst said. “On the other hand, I thought the performers that stayed on beam did a really fantastic job, in a very difficult situation. We got a lot of growth through this meet and obviously through the year.”
The Gym Devils finished the day with a score of 192.700, leaving them in last place in the first session, 3.525 points behind the Gym Cats of Arizona, who topped the field at the end of the session.
“I was really happy with the first three events,” Lyst said. “We were really consistent, given all the challenges we’ve had throughout the season. I’m really proud of their efforts and just looking forward to getting better.”
Championship action continues later today, with Session #2 featuring UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State taking on last year’s Pac-12 Champions, the Red Rocks of Utah.