After a seventh-place finish at the Pac-12 Championship, ASU gymnastics learned of its next destination Monday, as the Sun Devils will be traveling to the University of Arkansas on Saturday, April 5, as part of the NCAA Regional Championships.
Two familiar foes to ASU, Utah and UCLA, are the two top seeds in the regional, followed by Arkansas, ASU, Utah State and UC Davis.
“We’re excited. It’s a great opportunity for the program,” assistant coach Tom Ward said. “We’re very familiar with Utah and UCLA, and Arkansas is a great SEC program. We think we match up well with and all of them and (Utah State and UC Davis).”
Competing in a Pac-12 that only fields eight gymnastics teams, ASU faced both Utah and UCLA in one-on-one meets this season, losing both times.
Ward said he thinks having already faced both teams will help ASU.
“I think it helps us, I think it gives us an advantage,” Ward said. “The team knows that they’re strong teams, and we’re happy to be in there representing the Pac-12 with them.”
Headed into the Pac-12 Championships, ASU was looking for a strong road score to help its seeding for regionals, but Ward said that the Sun Devils’ 195.550 didn’t effect their seeding.
“We were going to be a four-seed regardless of the result at Pac-12s,” Ward said. “We were kind of locked into that four seed for the past two weeks.”
The main goal of each team competing at the Regional Championship is to take either first or second place, either of which would guarantee it a spot at the NCAA National Championships, taking place at the University of Alabama between April 18 and April 20.
While taking first or second and qualifying for Nationals as a team is the main aspiration for ASU, there are other ways for Sun Devils to make their presence known at nationals. The top-two gymnasts from each regional on non-qualifying teams who compete in all four events will earn an individual spot in the national championship.
Also, all winners of the four individual events (balance beam, floor exercise, uneven bars and vault) punch themselves a ticket to the national championships in the sole event that they won, granted that their team didn’t qualify or they didn’t take top two for all-around in individual competition.
With multiple opportunities for ASU to send at least one gymnast to Nationals, the Sun Devils are preparing three athletes to compete all-around. Freshman Beka Conrad has already competed all-around three times this season, earning her top score of 39.200 in Berkeley, Calif., at the Pac-12 Championship.
Also getting prepped for a possible all-around play are sophomores Risa Perez and Carissa Kraus. Perez has been a strong competitor on uneven bars, balance beam, and floor all season for ASU, while Kraus has excelled on vault and uneven bars with a couple of appearances on floor. Perez will be looking to add vault to her repertoire while Kraus will possibly be adding both floor and balance beam to her pallet.
“Beka will go compete all-around. She did a great job at Pac-12s, and we’re also preparing (Kraus and Perez),” Ward said. “I think any one of those three athletes, if they have a good day, have a chance to be one of the top-two all-arounders at the meet. The thing is that they have to make the lineups first. It’ll be an interesting couple weeks of practice.”
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