ASU gymnastics freshmen are key to success

The 2013 ASU gymnastics season was defined by its overwhelming youth. Seven freshmen and four sophomores led the team to an encouraging third place finish at regionals, and were expected to lead the team to another strong year in 2014.

However, it’s been the success of two freshmen this year, Beka Conrad and Gilly Hogue, that has helped ASU to its No. 23 national ranking.

In the season opener at home against Sacramento State and San Jose State, Conrad, who assistant coach Tom Ward called the “MVP” of the meet, scored an impressive 9.825 on bars, while Hogue excelled on vault, scoring a 9.85. Conrad also scored a 9.65 on balance beam and 9.75 on floor.

The transition from individual-oriented high school gymnastics, where gymnasts compete as a member of a club, is much different than the team atmosphere college gymnastics emphasizes.

“In high school it was all about you, and whatever you did reflected on you, but here what you do reflects on the team as a whole, so you learn more about being part of a team,” Conrad said.

Neither gymnast thought they would be expected to have the immediate impact they have had so far.

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect during preseason; all I expected was just to work hard throughout the whole season,” Conrad said.

“Coming in here, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew I wanted to compete on vault and beam, but now that I am, it’s good experience,” Hogue said.

However, it’s more than just preseason preparation that leads to on-floor success. Conrad said the coaches emphasized early academic success.

“They told us to get ahead in class and have mentors, tutors and just use the resources around you,” Conrad said.

Saturday, the freshmen embarked on their first road trip of the year, heading out to Seattle for a quad-meet including ranked Washington and San Jose State. The freshmen excelled, leading ASU to a first-place finish. Conrad scored a 9.675 on uneven bars and a 9.8 on floor. Hogue added a strong 9.85 on vault and both gymnasts scored 9.8s on balance beam.

That experience was something to remember for the freshmen.

“I had no idea what to expect, but I was roomed with one of the upperclassmen, it was a lot of help there,” Hogue said. “She told me what it was competing away from home and having fans that weren’t necessarily cheering for you.”

“I expected it to be fun, because you’re just traveling with the team, and you get to know each other better,” Conrad said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Ward has been very impressed with their performance thus far this season.

“We always expect our freshmen to come in and do well, which they’ve done,” Ward said. “We actually expect the freshmen to do better than the girls we graduated, because that means we’re recruiting well. (Conrad and Hogue) just have to keep focused and continue to work in practice and they’ll get even better.”

Both Hogue and Conrad get another chance to contribute at this Friday’s home meet, which begins at 5 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.

“It was a great feeling knowing that I helped the team out and was part of that 195.6,” Hogue said.

“It gives us more confidence to do what we’re fully capable of here at home and show what the Sun Devils are really made of,” Conrad said.

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