If you can’t beat ‘em, hire their co-head coach.
After finishing in fourth place at the regional held by the Arkansas Razorbacks this season, one slot behind the hosts, ASU gymnastics has hired the Razorbacks’ co-head coach René Lyst, the University announced Monday.
ASU’s head coaching position was left vacant after the season, as John Spini had announced in January that he would be retiring at season’s end.
Lyst spent the last 13 year at the University of Arkansas alongside fellow co-head coach Mark Cook. Together, they led the Razorbacks to 11 NCAA regional appearances and seven NCAA championship appearances, five of which resulted in top-10 finishes.
This is athletic director Ray Anderson’s second hiring since he took over for Steve Patterson. The first came after he and wrestling coach Shawn Charles agreed to a “mutual” resignation.
“I am thrilled to welcome René Lyst to our family of head coaches,” Anderson said in a press release. “Her passion, drive and championship expectations align perfectly with our values for academic excellence, championship performance and integrity. Her success in building a program at Arkansas gave us great confidence in her ability to have our program compete for an NCAA Championship.”
Lyst said that leaving the SEC — a gymnastics powerhouse — for the Pac-12 presents an equally daunting challenge.
“(ASU) is great, and there’s a lot of opportunity to be successful,” Lyst said. “In our sport, in the Pac-12 you’ve got three top schools always in the mix for the (Super Six) in Utah, UCLA, and Stanford.”
Lyst said she was impressed with Anderson’s vision for the athletic department in her visit to ASU, and said she hopes to be an integral part of it.
“(Anderson) was very direct with what his goals were, he wants to be top five, best in-class,” Lyst said. ” I’m all about (instilling) excellence, and I’d like to get ASU back in the mix and be a a big contributor to the success of the athletic department as well.”
Lyst said that in her time as a student at Penn State, and coach at Arkansas, her gymnastics programs participated in a “Beauty and the Beast” competition, which ASU debuted in January.
“It’s great (exposure) for both programs, it’s great for crowd appeal,” Lyst said. “It gets you prepared for distractions in postseason competition — there’s a whistle going off — and really, two events going on simultaneously.”
She said the event will benefit both her and newly hired wrestling coach Zeke Jones in rebuilding their respective programs.
Lyst helped the Arkansas gymnastics program grow from the ground up. She was hired in 2002 to help build the program, then started coaching in 2003 in its first year competing. In her 13 seasons, Arkansas compiled a 155-194-5 record.
“I’m excited to come in and lead the gymnastics program,” Lyst said. “The (game-planning) has already started, I’ve talked to all of the girls. We’re also working on recruiting, and it’s a lot of iron-to-the-fire right now. I’m ready to get on the ground out there and get to work.”
Spini left the program as the longest-tenured head coach at ASU and the fourth-longest tenured coach in NCAA gymnastics. Spini leaves big shoes to fill, as he compiled a 359-235-2 record during his time at ASU, including 19 top-10 finishes.
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Stefan Modrich also contributed to this report.