(Photo: Nick Badders/WCSN)
The Arizona State Gym Devils are coming off a 3-10 (1-5 Pac-12) 2017 season that showed drastic improvements and lots of hope for a young, talented team. ASU opened the 2018 NCAA gymnastics season with a quad-meet at home against No. 14 Auburn, No. 20 Iowa, and No.29 Iowa State.
ASU started off the meet on vault where it featured several Gym Devil debuts and upgrades. Junior, transfer Kaitlyn Szafranski lead things off, scoring a 9.700 in her ASU debut. Also making their first NCAA gymnastics appearance were junior, transfer Anne Kuhm and freshman Cairo Leonard-Baker, scoring a 9.725 and 9.750, respectively. Junior Morgan Wilson anchored the event with a 9.800 on her Yurchenko full, the highest score for a Gym Devil on the event. ASU racked up a respectable 48.725 total on the apparatus.
“It was crazy,” Kuhm, the transfer from France, said. “The atmosphere was amazing and everyone was cheering a lot. It was also stressful, but it was so much fun. Confidence is just a big thing I have to work on.”
Auburn was on bars for the first rotation which featured junior Samantha Cerio’s 9.900, first-place routine. The Tigers only hit four out of six routines, leaving them to count one of the falls on the event, and they received a 48.425 total.
Iowa began on the meet on balance beam. The Gym Hawks also had multiple falls on the event, but three scores of 9.800+ helped keep their total up to 48.300.
Iowa State lead things off on the floor exercise. Senior Haylee Young’s 9.825 tied for second on the event, and the Cyclones were able to start off strong with a 48.650.
In the second rotation, the Gym Devils really shined on the uneven bars, scoring a 48.850 on the event. This was the highest bars total out of the four teams as well as the highest event total of the meet for ASU. Sophomore Morgan Hart’s only routine of the evening was on bars where she earned a 9.800. Continuing her success was Leonard-Baker who earned a 9.775, but Kuhm was the one who really stood out for the Devils. Kuhm recorded a 9.825 on bars which was the second highest bars score of the meet.
Auburn moved to beam where it tried make up for some lost points from the first rotation. The Tigers went five for six on the event which was led by redshirt sophomore Emma Slappey’s 9.825. The Tigers came out with a 48.725 total on the event.
Iowa’s 48.925 on the floor was the highest total on the event of the night. Sophomore Clair Kaji took home the event title with a 9.850 for her routine. Also, making a strong contribution to the success was senior Lanie Snyder’s 9.825.
Iowa State took home the vault title with a 48.975. The lineup featured three scores of 9.800+, and junior Meaghan Sievers tied for first on the event with a 9.875.
ASU moved to the beam for the third rotation where the team’s struggles began. Kuhm and senior Nichelle Christopherson both fell during their routine, meaning the Gym Devils had to record one fall in their total. Despite the struggles, junior Justine Callis and sophomore Ashley Szafranski both put up solid routines, scoring a 9.775 and 9.800, respectively. ASU still managed to bring in a 48.375 total.
Auburn really struggled in the third rotation on the floor exercise. The Tigers only put up a 47.975 on the event due to having to count a fall. Redshirt junior Abby Milliet’s score of 9.800 was the highest on the team.
On to vault was Iowa, that recorded a 48.725. Senior Nikki Youd led the team with a score of 9.825. Iowa State moved to the uneven bars, earning a 48.525. No gymnast in the Cyclones’ lineup had a score higher than 9.775.
It was anyone’s game between ASU, Iowa and Iowa State after the third rotation as they were all within two-tenths of a point of each other. There was no coming back for Auburn though as the Tigers were more than a point behind the other three teams.
For the final rotation, the Gym Devils closed things out on the floor exercise. Despite Kaitlyn Szafranski falling on one of her tumbling passes and Kuhm stepping out of bounds, ASU still put up good numbers on the apparatus. Christopherson lead things off with a 9.775 on her routine, and Jessica Ginn earned a career-high 9.825, enough for a second-place finish on floor. Leonard-Baker closed out her all-around campaign with a 9.725 to anchor the event.
Auburn finished the meet on vault. The Tigers featured some of the highest start values on vault, but they were not able to make up for the more than a point deficit. Freshman Drew Watson took first on the event with a 9.875.
The Gym Hawks clasped on the uneven bars as they multiple falls, leaving them to count two routines with a fall in them. Kaji had one of the only clean routines for Iowa, scoring a 9.800. The Gym Hawks were only able to get a 47.050 on the apparatus.
Iowa State closed out the meet on the balance beam. Three gymnasts had scores of 9.800+, including senior Kelsey Paz who took home the beam title with a score of 9.875. The Cyclones shined on the event with a 49.025 total, the only event score of 49.000+ of the meet. This secured the first place finish for the Cyclones.
The Gym Devils earned a 194.675 to take second in the meet behind No. 29 Iowa State’s score of 195.175. ASU knocked off two top-20 teams with No. 14 Auburn coming in third and No. 20 Iowa in fourth with scores of 193.950 and 193.000, respectively.
“We had the meet, we were out in front, but I feel like we had a little more nerves on those second two events.” head coach Jay Santos said. “All-in-all, it was a pretty positive night. Lots of good things, but lots of things we can clean up, stuff that we usually don’t make mistakes on.”
Iowa State’s senior Haylee Young took home the all-around honors with a score of 39.200. Cairo Leonard-Baker’s all-around total of 39.000 was enough to earn the freshman a fourth-place finish.
Leonard-Baker reflected on her first collegiate meet and being able to compete in the all-around as a freshman.
“It was really exciting! I was really hard keeping my nerves in check and keeping my heart rate at a normal pace, but I liked it,” Leonard-Baker said. “I wrote it on my goals sheet that I just want to be a gymnast that my teammates can count on no matter what.”
The Gym Devils hit the road for the second meet of the season to take on the Mountaineers of West Virginia on Sunday, January 14 at 11 a.m.