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Gymnast Atkinson ready for NCAA meet

(Photo by Michael Arellano)
(Photo by Michael Arellano)

Make no mistake about it — 2010 was a disappointing year for the ASU gymnastics team.

But all of this season’s woes can easily be forgotten with one stellar performance by junior Mary Atkinson Thursday at the NCAA Championships.

The 2010 Second-Team All-Pac-10 gymnast is the first Sun Devil to qualify for Nationals since 2006.

“The most important thing that happened this year is that Arizona State will be represented back at the National Championships,” coach John Spini said. “We would love to have the [whole] team there, but we used to have at least three kids go every year, so this is just a big plus for us.”

The drought was the longest in ASU gymnastics history.

During her junior campaign, Atkinson hit 44 out of 48 routines, notching career-highs on each event.

Her only real stumble was at the Pac-10 Championships, where a bad miss on vault cost her First-Team All-Pac-10 honors.

Atkinson’s breakout year may have caught fans off guard, but no one inside the program was surprised by her brilliance on the mat.

“Mary can be in a position to be an All-American,” Spini said. “She has her head on straight when she knows what she needs to do and has really performed well on every level she’s needed to [in order] to keep going forward.”

Her teammate echoed Spini‘s praise.

“She’ll do great,” senior Kaitlynn Bormann said. “She’s been the most consistent for us all season.”

By qualifying as an all-arounder, Atkinson will be eligible for awards given to gymnasts on all four events.

“I’d really like to come back with something, maybe be an All-American [distinction],” Atkinson said. “I’m pretty confident on everything. I’m not particularly nervous about any one event. It’s the same routines I’ve been doing all year.”

The top eight finishers in each event, as well as the all-around competition, are awarded All-American distinctions.

“We have to be in the right situation,” Spini said. “She’s going to be starting on beam in the first session, and getting her off to a great start will matter if she’s going to be placing the all-around.”

Being the sole representative from ASU, Atkinson will rotate with Nebraska, but says that will not be a distraction for her.

“Obviously, having the whole team there [provides] a lot of comfort to support you and back you up,” Atkinson said. “But it won’t be the first time I’ve competed by myself, so it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.”

If she should finish high enough on any event in Thursday afternoon‘s opening round, the event finals would take place Saturday.

“She’s not going to let Arizona State or herself down,” Spini said. “She’s in a really good mental frame now.”

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