ASU gymnastics looks to finish strong in coach's last year

Junior Morgan Steigerwalt performs her beam routine during the first home meet. (Photo courtesy of Arianna Grainey) Junior Morgan Steigerwalt performs her beam routine during the first home meet. (Photo courtesy of Arianna Grainey)

After a 2013 season in which it finished in third place at Regionals, ASU gymnastics comes into 2014 looking to build off of that and compete for a Pac-12 Championship.

The seven freshmen who were integral parts of last year’s team are now seasoned vets, coming into 2014 with experience and preparation as the Sun Devils return 21-of-24 gymnasts in their rotation.

In 2013, ASU lost seven gymnasts to graduation, forcing the Sun Devils to use their freshmen. Six of the seven freshmen consistently competed and performed well.

Now they return, looking to improve on their first years. Also back are three juniors, and senior Samantha Seaman, who is fully recovered from a torn ligament. Five new freshmen round out the squad, which is ranked No. 25 in the nation.

ASU made a big splash in the offseason when it hired Hollie Vise as an assistant coach. Vise won two world championships as a gymnast and competed with the University of Oklahoma before coming to ASU.

“I think this team definitely has more depth than last year. On floor we have a lot of choices as to who to use in competition,” Vise said.

While this year’s freshmen aren’t all going to be thrust into competition as quickly as last year’s, they’re already drawing high praise from Vise.

“Gilly (Hogue) a very calm and collected competitor, and Beca (Conrad) will kill herself for you in practice," Vise said. "Nerves don’t get to them.”

At Saturday’s tri-meet in Tempe, Hogue scored a 9.85 on vault. Conrad shined, scoring a 9.825 on bars, 9.65 on balance beam, and 9.75 on her floor routine.

Fellow freshman Kellie Wanamaker did not compete but still did exhibition.

“(Wanamaker) is really passionate," Vise said "She’s the most improved since getting to campus.”

In addition to the talented freshmen and sophomores ASU has, it returns two high-scoring upperclassmen.

Junior Natasha Sundby, who scored three 9.9s last year, and Seaman return strong. Seaman scored 9.775 on vault and 9.675 on floor in her first meet.

Before the season started, head coach John Spini announced his plans to retire at the end of the season. His final year will be his 34th season at the helm, and in his tenure 27 Sun Devils have been named All-Americans with 10 individual national championships.

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