The overused saying goes, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
That saying rang true Saturday afternoon, but not in the typical meaning. When ASU gymnastics took on UA at a packed Wells Fargo Arena, it wasn’t the routine, vault or performance that determined the outcome of the meet, it was the landings.
Simply put, ASU stuck its landings while UA did not and the Sun Devils upended the Wildcats 196.125-195.350 to an announced crowd of 5,865. The Gym Devils and Wildcats competed alongside the ASU men’s club team, which was taking on the club squad of Washington.
“We really came together as a team tonight, and I’m just so proud of them,” senior Sammie Seaman said. “It’s obviously a tough competition, Arizona is always a tough competition, but I just feel like the fans and everyone got into it tonight and it helped.”
“I’m really excited,” coach John Spini said. “It’s our big rivalry with Arizona. Out of 25 routines we hit 24 of them … I’m really pleased with the team. The energy of the team, the landings.”
The first rotation of the evening had ASU on vault and UA on uneven bars. ASU chose to only vault five athletes, resting freshman Beka Conrad to keep her fresh for the other three events, a move that would pay dividends. Freshman Gilly Hogue led off with a 9.800, followed by a 9.850 from sophomore Carissa Kraus. Sophomore Allie Salas and Seaman scored consecutive 9.800s, and junior Natasha Sundby ended the event with a meet-high 9.875. UA struggled on bars, and ASU took a 49.125-48.550 lead after the first rotation.
Next up for ASU was uneven bars. Sophomore Risa Perez opened up with a 9.775, followed by consecutive 9.825s from sophomore Kristine Levin and Conrad. Sophomore Stephanie Miceli earned a 9.700. Junior Brianna Gades scored a 9.850, and Kraus scored a meet-high 9.875 to close out the event, and through two rotations ASU led UA 98.275-97.400.
The third rotation put ASU on balance beam, an event it struggled on in previous meets against Utah and UCLA but excelled at against BYU Feb. 15. Conrad led off with a 9.700, followed by a 9.725 from Hogue. Junior Morgan Steigerwalt stuck her landing en route to a 9.800, and Perez scored a meet-high 9.875, tying her career high. Gades and Miceli finished off with 9.800 and 9.775, respectively, as ASU led 147.250-146.350 through three rotations.
The fourth and final rotation of the night had ASU competing in the floor routine. After a Salas 9.725 and Conrad 9.775, Seaman scored a strong 9.800, bringing a roar from the crowd. Steigerwalt earned a 9.725 and Perez danced her way to a 9.850 as ASU finalized its victory over the Wildcats.
While she’s the only senior on the team, Seaman is joined by Spini in having participated in their last meet against UA, and while both emphasized it’s important to not focus on the other team, they were emotional following the win over the Wildcats.
“I can’t even express to you how happy I am right now,” Seaman said. “The only other time we beat them was my sophomore year. Just to end on a victory means a lot to me.”
“I’ve very happy,” Spini said. “I’ve always loved beating U of A. I think our record speaks for itself. We’ve struggled the last four, five years with that just because of some of the changes, and that falls of me. I’m very proud of this team.”
ASU will take this momentum into Coravallis, Ore. next week to take on Pac-12 rival OSU and national power Nebraska.
“We’re not done improving,” Seaman said. “We’re just building and getting stronger and stronger to get to nationals.”
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