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Gymnastics falls flat at Pac-10 Championships

TOUGH OUTING: ASU junior Mary Atkinson performs her balance beam routine during the Pac-10 Championships on Saturday at McKale Center in Tucson. The Sun Devils finished last with a score of 190.675. (Photo courtesy of Steve Rodriguez)
TOUGH OUTING: ASU junior Mary Atkinson performs her balance beam routine during the Pac-10 Championships on Saturday at McKale Center in Tucson. The Sun Devils finished last with a score of 190.675. (Photo courtesy of Steve Rodriguez)

TUCSON — ASU gymnastics coach John Spini is one of the most calm, collected and even-keeled men in collegiate gymnastics.

All of that went out the window Saturday at the Pac-10 Championships after his team’s performance, or lack thereof, earned a score of 190.675.

“I am just absolutely fuming,” Spini said. “Not disappointed — I am actually mad. My coaching staff works very hard with these athletes, and to miss three routines or more on each event, that’s embarrassing.”

It was the ASU gymnastics team’s lowest team score in over a decade.

“[It’s all] just on things we’ve worked on,” Spini said. “I’m thinking, ‘What else can I do?’ I need to take some time off. I’ve always been told not to give very many interviews when you’re mad.”

The No. 29 Sun Devils (2-17) received six losses and finished dead last in the meet.

“Hopefully we’re still going to Regionals,” Spini said. “I don’t know where our seeding will be. Hopefully this doesn’t have to be their last trip to the party, but if we don’t go, it’s their own fault.”

UCLA won the team title with a score of 197.350, followed by Stanford (196.550) and Oregon State (195.950).

The Sun Devils began the meet missing three consecutive and four out of six total routines on floor, scoring a 47.725 event total.

“We haven’t missed more than one or two floor routines all year long,” Spini said. “That’s ridiculous. I have to figure out why that happened with this team in a very short time.”

In each of the final three events, it seemed the standard of futility only grew larger with each performance.

ASU freshman Nicole Johnson got the worst of it.

On floor, Johnson’s near-flawless routine was marred when she stepped out of bounds preparing for her next tumbling series. On vault, the freshman balked on her attempt, garnering an unheard-of score of 7.750. The uneven bars were no different, as her legs smacked against the low bar while swinging from the high bar.

Spini, in a veteran coaching move, removed his youngest girl from the beam lineup.

“To see Nicole Johnson just self-destruct like that, you know, she’s a freshman,” Spini said. “And you never know what a freshman’s going to do.”

Even the gymnast who had carried the Sun Devils on her back all season had struggles, as junior Mary Atkinson missed on the vault.

“Mary’s miss on vault was a brain fart,” Spini said. “She doesn’t miss very much at all, but she still hits beam, does a good bars routine and hits floor.”

With the performance on Saturday, ASU joined No. 56 California as the only two Pac-10 schools to fail to score 48 or more on any event in a meet this year.

Both assistant coaches echoed each other’s disappointment.

“A different team walked in here today,” assistant coach Kari Ward said. “You make a mistake one meet and you never make that same mistake again, but they keep doing the same things over and over again.”

“I have no idea what happened,” assistant coach Jean-Luc Cairon said. “Friday was a great workout, the whole [last] two weeks were.”

From here, the Sun Devils will await word Monday afternoon to see if they will be going to the NCAA Regional Championships, which take place on April 10.

“We don’t give up — it’s called character,” Spini said. “I’m going to pull a couple of them in the office and just say ‘Hey, do you want to do this?’ I love my team. I don’t try to coddle them. That was a meltdown.”

Reach the reporter at tyler.emerick@asu.edu


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