ASU gymnastics faces California, looks to build upon signature win in Seattle

It’s rare to have a signature win two meets into the season, yet that’s exactly what ASU gymnastics achieved last week when it went into Seattle and took first place in a quad-meet that included two top-25 teams.

The Sun Devils led from start to finish, racking up a total of 195.9, easily beating the other schools in the meet.

Now ASU looks to take that momentum forward into a home meet Friday against California. In the most recent NCAA rankings, ASU was tied for No. 23 in the nation with Ohio State, one spot ahead of the Golden Bears. However, California’s highest score is an impressive 196.275, which was a program high.

Coach Tom Ward said the strong performance in Washington only adds to the team’s motivation.

“When you score that high on the road it really makes a statement,” Ward said, “and that gives your team confidence now, and it’ll help us when it comes to rankings later on in the season,”

Ward said he has been impressed by the early success the freshmen have seen.

“The freshmen (have surprised me the most),” Ward said. “We knew coming into the year that if they prepared well they could be strong contributors, but how they’ve done so far has been very impressive.”

Two of those freshmen, Gilly Hogue and Beka Conrad, have played vital roles in ASU’s success so far this year. Hogue scored a 9.85 on vault and a 9.8 on balance beam at Washington, while Conrad put up a 9.675 on uneven bars and 9.8s on both balance beam and vault.

While many teams may have taken the road win as a peak performance and slacked off, the Sun Devils aren’t letting the emotional high of the victory get in the way of improvement this week.

Ward said there are plenty of things the team has to work on.

“We’re very happy with how we did last Saturday but we’re still improving on our handstands on bars, strong landings on vault and balance beam,” he said.

Cal is 3-3 on the year thus far, but has impressed nonetheless. Its most recent loss came to Pac-12 rival Utah, a perennial powerhouse which is ranked No. 4 in the nation. Still, the Bears only lost by three-fifths of a point, scoring a 196.275, making it easy to overlook the loss.

The meet on Friday is the inaugural “Beauty and the Beast” event. The gymnasts will compete against Cal side-by-side with the ASU wrestling team, who will be taking on Boise State.

Ward said the festivities won’t distract the Sun Devils from their own meet.

“We’re not really worried at all about who we’re going to be facing,” Ward said. “It’s a home meet, and I know we’ll have excited fans. It’s going to be fun competing along (with) the wrestlers.”

 

Reach the reporter at stheodor@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @shane_writes