Sophomore gymnasts step up in wake of injury

UCLA; gymnastics; ASU; Wells Fargo; Sun Devils Freshman Alex Cope performs a floor routine against the Jan. 25 meet against UCLA. (Photo by Sam Rosenbaum)

Last year, Brianna Gades, Natelle Gentile, Morgan Steigerwalt and Natasha Sundby were the standout freshmen. With the winds of change of last year's graduating seniors, these sophomores are now the leaders of the Gym Devils' extremely young lineup.

Junior Samantha Seaman was supposed to be carrying the team, picking up right where she left off and contending for the all-around gymnast position. However, an injury during the week of the opening meet has kept her on crutches with a bedazzled boot.

In her place, Sundby has stepped up, hitting a career high every meet so far. She had a 9.9 on floor last week that won the floor title against powerhouse UCLA, which featured the top ranked gymnasts in the country: No. 1 senior Vanessa Zamarripa, No. 2 junior Olivia Courtney and No. 5 senior Alyssa Pritchett.

Consistency from Gades on bars, beam and floor has helped pad the Gym Devils' scores this season and even helped secure a road win against Sacramento State and San Jose State in a tri-meet two weeks ago.

Injuries have forced Gentile to redshirt and kept Steigerwalt limited, but she is ready to come back at full strength and give the Sun Devils the boost they need.

“This year has meant so much to me, and I’ve worked so hard, and this was kind of like a freak injury, but I’m ready to get back out there,” Steigerwalt said.

An injury like no other

Gentile is grateful her season-ending nose injury happened early on in warm-ups the day of the Oklahoma meet.

“No one would ever come to a gymnastics meet again if they saw that,” Gentile said with a laugh.

On the 15-minute touch on vault, Gentile’s nose hit the vault and was completely shattered. The adrenaline kept the pain away, but it couldn’t do anything for the shock that came when the sophomore touched her nose.

Besides that, the only other time she cried was when the plastic surgeon came in and told her the bone was gone. His confidence that he could reconstruct it calmed her down.

“I can’t really see it yet but I can already tell it looks better,” she said. “See, it’s at a 90-degree angle to my lip now. There used to be a hook.”

Her leadership role for the team may not be what she expected, but she’s impacting the team regardless. The communications major asked if she can help out in the ASU sports information office.

She’s already contributed the idea for the team to wear names on the backs of their warm-ups of someone with breast cancer they were dedicating their performance to in the Pink Meet last weekend.

Adjustments on vault

Seaman and Gentile’s injuries have left the Sun Devils shorthanded on vault this season.

At the first meet, this meant coach John Spini only had four vaults and a layout from Kristine Levin. Since then, Levin has worked on her vault. Spini has still only sent five in the past two meets.

For both the Sacramento State tri-meet and the home meet against UCLA, freshman Stephanie Miceli has been the sixth vaulter in the lineup, only to go if there is a fall before her.

“I was kind of hoping there would be (a fall),” Miceli said. “I want to get out there. I just love competing.”

Surely, the coaching staff doesn’t feel the same way.


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Correction: Because of an editing error the quote, “This year has meant so much to me, and I’ve worked so hard, and this was kind of like a freak injury, but I’m ready to get back out there,” was attributed to Natelle Gentile. It is correctly attributed to Morgan Steigerwalt. The caption was also incorrectly identified sophomore Brianna Gades. The photo was of freshman Alex Cope.

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