At Wednesday’s practice, the last one before the ASU gymnastics team heads to Corvallis, Ore., for the Pac-12 championships, coach John Spini talked to his team about living in the moment.
This was one of the few times the team did not hear Spini’s voice throughout practice, as his voice was gone from laryngitis.
With the whole team gathered in a big circle on the floor, Spini told them to think about different moments from the season, good and bad, specifically the way they felt after their disappointing beam session against UA.
He told them to keep those moments in mind, and decide which ones they want to have going forward as the team will be competing in the Pac-12 championships on Saturday.
Going into the postseason for this team is a lot like going into the regular season. Half the team has never competed at this level before — an intimidating collection of ranked teams is on the docket.
Assistant coach Tom Ward isn’t worried about his young team because of its rigorous regular season schedule.
“When you’re going against ranked teams every week, (the Pac-12 championship) is just normal as opposed to going against lesser opponents, where it doesn’t seem quite so difficult, I guess,” he said.
One of the seven freshmen who are inexperienced in postseason competition has at least attended before. Las Vegas native and freshman Risa Perez is well versed as a fan with the Pac-12 teams.
“It’s cool to see when you’re younger and how it’s changed,” Perez said. “I know last time they did a rotation and now they’re doing it in two sessions, and it’s just cool to see. You look up in the stands and you think, You know hey, that was me just a couple of years ago watching all these amazing athletes.”
Sophomore Natasha Sundby has been there before, and she thinks it’s important for her fellow sophomores to lead by example.
“Just because we went through it last year and we know what it takes to get to regionals and to get to nationals and we know the dedication that’s needed in these next two weeks that we have practice,” she said. “I think it takes leadership in that respect for the freshman to see this is what we need to do to get where we want to be.”
Having the best meet of the year to finish off the regular season has given the team some momentum to work with and drive to get better, Sundby said.
“I think it was more exciting knowing we didn’t have our best meet,” she said. “I still feel like we haven’t hit where our potential is. We did well on three events, except we struggled a little on vault, and it’s exciting to know that we still have improvements to make, but we still got our best score since like 2009. So this team, we can really do a lot this year.”
For Ward, the best element to work with is not having any inactive gymnasts.
“Right now, we’re healthier than we have been all season by far; we’re using every single athlete on our team right now for the first time this season, which is really good,” he said.
The tournament will be separated into two sessions, with ASU competing in the first which starts at 1:30 p.m. against Cal, Washington and UA. It will be streamed live by the Pac-12.
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