Culture is main component in ASU gymnastics' newfound success

The Sun Devils, who have scored more than 196 points in three consecutive meets, continue to impress

Last season the ASU women's gymnastics team finished last in the Pac-12 Championships and ended the regular season with a 3-10 record. Now, the Sun Devils are sporting a No.12 national ranking and have learned from their trials and tribulations to find success through solid recruiting, culture and hard work.

Junior Justine Callis is one of five gymnasts who stuck through the past two tumultuous seasons with the Sun Devils, and she is proud the team's hard work has begun to pay off.

“We have been grinding it out all preseason and all summer, too,” Callis said. “It's really common to rest during summer, but we were really focusing on this exact time.”

The strong bond between the group is a point that Callis and her teammates are proud of and believe is a vital component to their winning season.

“The 17 of us are like sisters," Callis said. "We spend so much time together, but even in our free time, we still spend time together ... It really is like having 16 sisters, and it's amazing.”

In her second and final year as an ASU gymnast, senior Nichelle Christopherson said that while the team was committed to success in her previous season, this year is different.

“I really do feel this team is committed and willing to do anything it takes to get to where we need to go, so that's so special to me that we share that same value,” Christopherson said.

Taped up against the wall in the practice facility is a list of goals that the entire roster agreed upon and signed. Some of the goals include scoring 195.5+ in all meets and having 75 percent of events averaging 9.8’s.

“Obviously, we want to go to regionals this year, and I don't think that will be a problem for us this year, and also, we would like to score pretty high up there in Pac-12’s,” Christopherson said. “The last few years we’ve come in last place, but I know that’s not gonna be the case this year.” 

ASU has climbed in the rankings thanks in part to its success in a tough schedule. Through their first four meets, the Sun Devils have defeated ranked opponents including Auburn, Iowa and Stanford, falling only to Iowa State, who is now ranked 24th in the country. ASU was ranked 31st before the season started.

The team is not focused on trying to reinvent themselves. Rather, they are prioritizing the fundamentals and trying to master those techniques.

“I think it's really important to put something really specific in front of you and make sure that it's a good, attainable, yet challenging goal,” Callis said. “My goals haven't changed, but as I've adapted and learned more, they’ve gotten more specific in a way.”

Coach Jay Santos reiterated Callis’s point and said the team just needs to stay consistent in order to remain successful.

“(We need to) continue to do what we’re doing, keep working on those small details,” Santos said. “We need to try to find that little bit more of a better routine and continue to field that confidence that they’ve seemed to be growing.”

The Sun Devils hope to continue their success on Saturday, Feb. 3, when they travel to Corvallis to take on No. 13 Oregon State at 3:30 p.m MST.

Reach the reporter at or follow @KellyB1459 on Twitter. 

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