After receiving its bid to the NCAA regional championships last week, No. 24 ASU gymnastics has been quietly working on preparing for its trip Saturday to the University of Arkansas.
The fourth seed out of six teams, the Sun Devils will have their work cut out for them if they have any intention of advancing to nationals, as elite programs UA, UCLA, Utah and host Razorbacks are seeded ahead of them. Smaller programs Utah State and UC Davis are seeded below the Sun Devils.
After its seventh place finish at the Pac-12 championships, ASU dropped two spots in the national rankings to No. 24. The Utes, coming off a convincing victory the Pac-12 championships, are ranked No. 5. The Bruins come in at No. 8, while the third-seeded Razorbacks are ranked No. 17.
Finishing one spot out of last place at the Pac-12 championships was not how ASU expected to leave Berkeley, Calif., but it gave much reason for optimism. A 49.250 team total on floor exercise was the second-highest out of the eight teams, behind only Utah. ASU performed exceedingly well on vault, scoring a season-high 49.150; however, mediocre performances on balance beam and uneven bars hindered ASU en route to a respectable, yet disappointing 195.550.
“We’ve shown that we can be strong at all four events,” assistant coach Tom Ward said. “We just have to put it together and hit four events on that day.”
With three strong teams seeded ahead of them on Saturday, it’ll take a collective effort on all four events for the Sun Devils to place in the top two and earn a trip to nationals in Birmingham, Ala.
But while the team is aiming at earning one of those two spots, there are other opportunities for it to be represented at the nationals.
The top two individual all-around gymnasts from non-qualifying teams earn a spot in nationals, and all four winners from the individual events earn a trip to nationals, granted their team didn’t qualify or they didn’t punch an individual all-around ticket.
With that said, ASU is prepping freshman Beka Conrad and sophomores Carissa Kraus and Risa Perez for all-around play. Conrad has competed all-around three times this season, scoring a 39.200 at the Pac-12 championships.
Neither Kraus nor Perez has competed all-around, but both have excelled competing in three events. In order to go all-around, Perez would be adding vault while Kraus would be adding balance beam.
“I will say this: I think it’s an advantage to start on floor, which is where we’ll be starting,” Ward said. “We’ll be starting on floor and then go right to vault, so we’ll be able to use those two high energy events to our advantage, get the adrenaline (going). … I think it sets up well for us.”
The 2014 NCAA gymnastics regional championship will take place Saturday, April 5, in Fayetteville, Ark., at 2 p.m. Arizona time. The meet will not be televised locally.
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