ASU gymnastics seniors look to guide young core heading into 2020-21 season

The women's gymnastics team will head into competitions with a few goals in mind, including making it to the championship

The 2020-21 ASU gymnastics season is set to begin this winter, but the schedule has yet to be released.

According to a Pac-12 spokesperson, the schedule for the upcoming women's gymnastics season has yet to be determined and no decision has been made on whether the schools will have non-conference opponents.

But even without any set dates for games, ASU comes into the season ranked No. 21 in the preseason rankings and will be facing stiff competition within their own conference. Six other Pac-12 teams besides ASU are ranked in the top 25 with UCLA and Utah both being ranked in the top 5. 

“We’re excited to compete,” sophomore all-around gymnast Gracie Reeves said. "Whoever we face in competition will be great."

Last season, the team went 2-3-1 against ranked opponents including a third-place finish in a tri-match against ranked LSU and Oregon State. Other notable results from last season included wins against No. 10 Cal and No. 24 Arizona. 

But, this season, ASU will feature a much different team. 

The Sun Devils have 13 underclassmen, the most out of any of the ranked Pac-12 teams, Oregon State and Cal are the next youngest as both schools have 10. 

“I think being a young team is great,” senior gymnast Cairo Leonard-Baker said. “It makes us more fun and energetic. There is a lot more excitement because the freshman and sophomores are excited about everything we do.” 

They'll also have two seniors, which is tied with Washington for the least number of seniors among the six other ranked Pac-12 teams. Those two seniors for ASU, all-around gymnasts Maya Williams and Leonard-Baker, will look to fill the leadership void left by graduate senior Morgan Wilson and senior Jessica Ginn. 

“Getting freshman in high-pressure situations and getting them experience will help our team be that much better in the future,” Reeves said. 

When it comes to developing ASU's younger gymnasts, Reeves stated that the two biggest points of emphasis this season are confidence and details. According to Leonard-Baker, the freshman are constantly asking questions and have a willingness to learn from the upperclassmen. 

“Their hard work is already paying off in practice with their routines,” Leonard-Baker said. "Freshman usually run around like chickens with their head cutoff, but this class came in and were ready to work."

ASU also has four team leaders, one from each grade. Along with Reeves and Leonard-Baker are freshman Cassi Barbanente and junior Megan Thompson. The team leaders act as a bridge between the coaches and their teammates.

"We get feedback from everyone on the team ... (to) choose the leaders," head coach Jay Santos said. "Choosing leaders from different classes allows us to pick up where we left off, opposed to finding new leaders every year." 

The Sun Devils have two goals in place for this season, according to Leonard-Baker. The first goal is to finish in the top three of the Pac-12 during the regular season and in the Pac-12 tournament. The second goal is to make it to the NCAA championship. 

So with those clear goals in mind, ASU will continue to work on their fundamentals and look ahead to the future.

"With the talent on the team, we are capable of being up there with them (UCLA and Utah)," Reeves said. "We got to get the details down."

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