Gym Devils face powerful first test in No. 4 Oklahoma

Gymnastics, wells fargo, ASU Sophomore Morgan Steigerwalt performs on the beam at a Jan. 10, 2012, meet against Cal. The team will face Oklahoma in its first meet of the season on Saturday. (Photo by Beth Easterbrook)

The ASU gymnastics team does not get the luxury of easing into the season.

No. 4 Oklahoma, the reigning Big-12 champion, comes to Wells Fargo Arena with plans to send a strong message to the rest of its opponents.

The Sooners finished in seventh place in last year’s tournament, just narrowly missing their third-straight Super Six berth.

ASU coach John Spini looked forward to this meet the most during the offseason. He also feels the team holds the advantage with competing at home.

“Our advantage lies in our team spirit,” Spini said.

Oklahoma features three veterans on vault, making it one of its strongest events. Sophomore Erica Brewer, junior Madison Mooring and senior Brie Olson will start the lineup.

Olson was an All-American last year and brings a lot of experience and leadership to this lineup. Mooring was the runner up for the vault title in 2011 and was one of very few gymnasts to attempt a 10.0 vault.

ASU has some weapons to combat OU's impressive vault time. All-around gymnasts junior Samantha Seaman and sophomore Natelle Gentile have both made improvements on their vaults in 2012, after putting up a 9.875 and 9.775 respectively.

Oklahoma lost its strongest floor competitors last year to graduation and an injury to senior Kayla Nowak. The Sooners still have veteran leadership on floor in Olson and all-around gymnast junior Taylor Spears, whose career high is 9.9.

The Sun Devils plan on taking advantage on the floor behind sophomore Natasha Sundby. She put up strong numbers last season with a high score of 9.875. Spini thinks Sundby can deliver ASU some wins this season with her strong routine.

ASU also added some flare with freshman Risa Perez, who brings a strong presence with her routine.

While vault is one of Oklahoma’s stronger events, beam is notoriously the Sooners' strong suit.

To compete against OU's beam team, ASU will rely on four sophomores — Sundby, Gentile, Morgan Steigerwalt and Brianna Gades. All four put up 9.8s or higher as freshmen last year and look to improve this year.

Perez and senior Amelia Rew, who put up a 9.8 in the event last year, round out the lineup on beam.

The Sooners have a young group on bars, including Brewer, who was a second-team All-American for bars and an all-around as a freshman last year.

For ASU, Rew and grad student Kahoku Palafox provide the veteran leadership on an otherwise young lineup.

Palafox posted a career high 9.9 on bars in 2011 and put up a 9.850 last year at Illinois.

Rew, who was originally recruited as a vault specialist, has moved over to bars and puts up strong numbers as well.


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