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Gymnastics in Arkansas for NCAA regional meet

After a roller-coaster ride through the regular season, the postseason has arrived for the ASU gymnastics team.

The Sun Devils will be making their 28th consecutive appearance at the NCAA Regionals this weekend in Fayetteville, Ark., where they will compete against powerhouses Stanford, Michigan and hometown favorite Arkansas. The Sun Devils will also face their in-state rival UA at the meet.

ASU coach John Spini said that Arkansas will be the team to beat because of the home advantage.

The Sun Devil squad will be without a couple of its more consistent competitors. Sophomore Francesca Mercurio contracted mononucleosis before the Pac-10 Championships two weeks ago and was ordered by a doctor to sit out this weekend.

Sophomore Mary Atkinson experienced some pain in her shoulder at the conference championships and will not compete on bars. She has been cleared to participate in two other events.

“The team is disappointed with [Mercurio] out, but they are excited about making regionals,” Spini said earlier this week. “They need more confidence, and they’re working on the little two-tenths mistakes they’ve been making.”

Senior Nicole Harris, who has carried the team on her back for much of the season, has also had shoulder issues that have limited her in practice the past few weeks.

Spini said there would be a few lineup changes because of the injuries.

Freshman Kelly Reilly stepped in for Mercurio at the Pac-10 Championships and will try to fill that void again. Freshman Stephanie Hangartner competed on bars in place of Atkinson and will most likely fill in again also.

The Sun Devils will start the meet out on beam where they have capitalized all year long. Harris is expected to lead the team and be competing for a spot at nationals in the event.

Senior captain Tiana Jean has been solid on floor all year with the exception of an uncharacteristic fall at the Pac-10 Championships. She is poised to put on a national-qualifying performance.

Sophomore Beaté Jones was named to the Pac-10 All-Conference team in the all-around and hopes to earn herself a spot at nationals as well.

The top two teams and the top two all-around finishers from each regional will advance to the NCAA championships. Each event winner will also head to nationals.

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