ASU gymnastics places sixth in the Pac-12 Championships

Cairo Leonard-Baker led the Sun Devils in all-around with a 39.425

The No. 17 ASU gymnastics team traveled to the McKale Center in Tucson to compete in the 2018 Pac-12 Championships on Saturday, and The Sun Devils looking to improve from their disappointing last place finish last season, placed sixth. ASU placed behind UCLA, Utah, California, Washington and Oregon State. 

After placing last in the Pac-12 Championships last season, head coach Jay Santos noted how remarkable the team's progression has been.

“We held seed in this session, we were very close to Oregon State, who’s been a great team this year. We held off Stanford, who was coming on strong at the end of the meet,” Santos said. “We closed out the meet … it’s one of the most complete meets we’ve had in a while. From last year to this year, is just phenomenal change and we just gotta try to take that into regionals.”

Cairo Leonard-Baker spoke about the excitement in competing in her first Pac-12 Championships.

“It was amazing, I mean before the meet started it felt like every other meet, like the energy on our team,” Leonard-Baker said. “We always say we want to make whatever gym we’re in “our house” but today we actually did it.”

Santos was awarded Pac-12 Coach of The Year and Leonard-Baker was awarded Pac-12 Freshman Newcomer of the Year. 

The Sun Devils began their afternoon on bars where lone senior Nichelle Christopherson earned an impressive 9.825. Freshman phenom, Leonard-Baker lead the way for the Sun Devils with a 9.875. The Sun Devils carried a first place spot with a score of 49.125 heading into the second rotation. 

ASU moved to beam with Leonard-Baker leading the way as she put up a 9.750, but it was junior Heather Udowitch that was able to tie her career-high with an impressive 9.800. 

Christopherson, who competed in her final Pac-12 Championship, spoke on the emotions of her bar routine.

“I wasn’t even thinking about emotions, it was just before I got on the bar I was a little nervous, but as soon as I started running to get on the bar, I knew I was going to hit the routine," Christopherson said. “It was really exciting just to be back out here, it’s been a little while but I now have my teammates to back me up and trust each other on bars and swing it to the best of our ability.”

The Sun Devils, who have often struggled on beam throughout the season, held their own with the help of performances by junior Anne Kuhm and sophomore Ashley Szafranski. 

With a beautiful routine by Szafranski, her score of a 9.875 led the team overall, however the Sun Devils dropped to second place sitting .025 points behind Oregon State with a 98.200.

Poised and prepared to continue the success they’ve had all year on floor, junior Justine Callis proved that the Sun Devils came ready to make a mark at this years competition. 

After an enthusiastic performance, Callis earned a 9.725. Following a few stumbles, which caused a low score from sophomore Jessica Ginn, the Sun Devils bounced back with a lively routine by fan-favorite Kuhm who earned a 9.900.

The Sun Devils closed things out on floor with Leonard-Baker who showed off her personality in an upbeat dance that earned her a 9.900 as well. Their performances helped the Sun Devils maintain their second place spot with a score of 147.325.

Heading into the fourth and final rotation, the Sun Devils were ready to dominate. Showing absolute perfection on vault, Leonard-Baker notched a career-high 9.900 in her final performance of the afternoon. An impressive vault from Kuhm and Ginn helped the Sun Devils maintain a second place finish in the first session. 

They finished the session with a score of 196.425, only behind Oregon State with a 196.575.

The Sun Devils now await their placement at regionals. The NCAA Women's Gymnastics selection show is slated for Monday, March 26 at 1 p.m. MST and will be streamed on NCAA.com.


Reach the reporter at klbroder@asu.edu or follow @KellyBSays on Twitter. 

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