(Photo: Nicholas Badders/WCSN)
Following an exciting win filled with numerous career highs, the No. 11 ASU Gym Devils look to strike again in Palo Alto where they open up their Pac-12 season against the No. 20 Stanford Cardinal.
Both teams are coming off strong performances from last week with Stanford posting a 195.350 and ASU posting a 196.450. However, ASU does have the advantage with their win against West Virginia since Stanford fell short to No. 2 Utah, No. 4 UCLA, and No. 13 Washington at its quad-meet in Reno, Nevada.
ASU has shown significant growth and potential in their first two weeks of competition scoring a 49.000+ on every event for the first time since 2007. Freshman phenom Cairo Leonard-Baker especially shined last week scoring a pair of 9.825s on vault and beam as well as an impressive 9.900 and 9.925 on floor and bars, respectively, to earn her the all-around title and the PAC-12 Freshman of the Week honors.
Leonard-Baker’s all-around score of 39.425 helped ASU get its victory over the Mountaineers, and the Gym Devils will be counting on her again as the Oakland native returns to the Bay Area. The freshman credited her improvements from week one to week two to her different approach going to perform each routine.
“I’ve trained the exact same way, still working hard every day at practice, but I think it was just the mindset I was in,” Leonard-Baker said. “I definitely wasn’t as nervous, and I took my mind off of the score I’m going to get and more on just doing my routine how I would normally do it at practice.”
Each week, the Gym Devils keep climbing up the rankings and are currently sitting at No. 11 in the national rankings. As for each event, the Gym Devils rank 19th on vault (48.863), 12th on bars (48.988), 22nd on beam (48.800), and 21st on floor (48.925). Arizona State has the advantage on vault and bars whereas Stanford has the edge on beam and floor where the Cardinal are ranked No. 11 on beam and No. 4 team on floor.
Although the two squads look to be evenly on the vault with season highs of 49.000 for the Gym Devils and 49.075 for the Cardinals, the Gym Devils have shown vast improvements scoring or matching five career highs with scores of 9.800 or better. The Gym Devils have also shown vast improvements on bars with numerous stuck dismounts and hit handstands to earn a 49.125 as well as the No. 12. team in the country, their highest event ranking.
As for floor and beam, Stanford has a lead in the rankings, but last week ASU showed clean routines and multiple stuck dismounts for a season-high of 49.225, their highest team event total of the meet. Sophomore Ashley Szafranski had a standout routine scoring a career-high 9.900 to take home the individual event title.
“So far, we have made so many improvements just from last week to this week, and now we are focusing on all the little details for the next couple of meets,” Szafranski said.
Key gymnasts to keep an eye on for the Cardinal include lone senior Elizabeth Price, who scored the first perfect 10 of the season on bars, as well as freshmen newcomers Kyla Bryant and Lauren Navarro. Elizabeth Price is also very impressive on the vault and floor where she has scored a 9.950 and a 9.975, respectively.
The Gym Devils hope to continue building upon their success thus far and hope to keep building their confidence for the rest of the season. Catch the conference matchup in Palo Alto at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20, and it will be live streamed on the Stanford Live Stream.