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ASU gymnastics places third in Happy Valley for the Northeast Regional

Cairo Leonard-Baker qualified for the 2018 NCAA Championships in all-around

Imani Randle
ASU women gymnastics team embraces one another after a victory at the Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018.

For the first time since 2014, the No. 17 ASU women’s gymnastics team qualified for regionals as The Sun Devils trekked across the country to Penn State for the Northeast Regional on Saturday to compete against No. 5 Florida, No. 8 Washington, West Virginia, Penn State and New Hampshire.

The Sun Devils placed third, and after a hard fought meet, star freshman Cairo Leonard-Baker qualified as an individual all-arounder for the 2018 NCAA Championships. 

With a bye in the first rotation, the Sun Devils began the afternoon on floor, an area where they have seen much success throughout the season. 

Junior Justine Callis opened with a vibrant routine that earned her a 9.775. Her lively routine got the crowd going, but it was the two all-arounders Anne Kuhm and freshman Leonard-Baker who led the way for the Sun Devils, earning 9.825’s for their routines. After gorgeous lines on the floor, the Sun Devils earned a spot in fourth place with a score of 48.875.

After a solid rotation on-floor, ASU made its way to the vault. Junior Kaitlyn Szafranski started things off with a solid yurchenko full earning her a 9.700. Despite putting up a terrific 9.900 on vault during Pac-12’s, Leonard-Baker couldn't replicate her performance and earned a solid 9.750 with her strong yurchenko full. 

The team was led by junior Morgan Wilson who earned herself a 9.775, pushing the Sun Devils to third place.

Following another bye, the Sun Devils moved to the uneven bars, where Wilson began with a powerful performance and landing to earn a score of 9.800. 

A stunning double layout by sophomore Ashley Szafranski earned her a career-high 9.900, which ultimately led the Sun Devils as they battled their way through the rotation. Leonard-Baker followed close behind Szafranski with a 9.850 after anchoring in the lineup. Their efforts would help push the Sun Devils to a score of 146.700.

As they moved to the final rotation, the Sun Devils looked to finish strong on beam. They started things off with Leonard-Baker who notched in a 9.775. 

Throughout the season, beam has been an event that has been back and forth for the Sun Devils. This final performance, however, was one filled with excellent dismounts and even a season-high performance by junior Heather Udowitch, who earned a 9.850. 

Udowitch’s performance led the Sun Devils with Ashley following close behind with a 9.825. That performance would give the Sun Devils a third-place finish of 195.750.

In the all-around, Leonard-Baker tied for third with a score of 39.200, while Kuhm earned an a score of 39.050.

After a hard fought meet, star freshman Leonard-Baker qualified as an individual all-arounder for the 2018 NCAA Championships. 

The freshman wasn’t the only one who garnered honors at Regionals, with head coach Jay Santos earning NACGC/W South Central Region Head Coach of the Year. Senior associate athletic director Scottie Graham and senior associate athletic director and senior women's administrator Deana Garner-Smith earned NACGC/W South Central Regional Administrator of the Year honors.

The Sun Devils' third place finish is an improvement from their last attempt in 2014, where they competed in the Fayetteville Regional. This season also saw a drastic change from a team that finished the 2017 regular season with a 3-10 record.

Reach the reporter at or follow @KellyBSays on Twitter. 

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