Women gymnasts take different mindsets into Pac-10 regional

The women’s gymnastics teams from ASU and UofA both learned this week that they have been selected to attend the April 10 Regional Championships.

They are seeded just two places apart, but their path to get there was anything but similar.

Arizona, which will be seeded fourth, hit all its routines to score 195.875 and place fourth in the Pac-10 Championships last week, much to the satisfaction of the Cats’ coach, Bill Ryden.  “I am absolutely ecstatic about the way this meet turned out,” he said.  “I think this meet really showed our continued growth.”

At the same time, Arizona State, which will be seeded sixth at regionals,  scored a season-low 190.675 points to fall into a last-place finish.

After the disappointing results, their coach was just happy to get a bid to regionals.  “I feel very lucky that we are still going to regionals, so these athletes do not end on that type of competition,” said John Spini.  “I think we have to find a way to build their mindset up to believe in themselves a little better.”

And Spini is  probably just the person to accomplish that.  In his 30 years at ASU, he has sent teams to 20 NCAA Championships, and nine of those finished in the top five.

The Wildcats entered the Pac-10 Championships ranked No. 23 nationally.  They opened the event with a good showing on the vault rotation, with sophomore Deanna Graham placing third with a score of 9.90 and leading the GymCats to a second-place start behind UCLA.  Then senior Sarah Tomeczyk, who finished fourth in the vault, picked up another  fourth in the bars with a 9.850 score, keeping her team in second.

But, despite a solid performance in the beam, they fell behind Stanford into third place.  Molly Quirk scored 9.800 on the beam and none of her teammates – Graham, Aubree Cristello, Kaite Matusik -scored less than a 9.750 in the event.

The Cats had three all-around competitors for the meet.  Graham led the team with an all-around score of 39.250, followed by Cristello with a 39.175 and Quirk at 38.850.

ASU had difficulties throughout the Pac-1o Championships, plagued by misses and falls.  They even had difficulty in the floor competition, which is normally their top event; they were ranked 12th nationally at one point in the season.  Junior Mary Atkinson had a good performance, scoring a 9.825, but the team managed only a 47.825 for the event.

Then, in the vault, Atkinson fell in her performance, the first time that has happened since her freshman year.  Callie Price was the only hit for the Sun Devils, coming up with a 9.8 from each judge.

Atkinson rallied in the bars and was the team leader in that event, nailing her landing for a 9.8.  She went on to place ninth in the all-around with a 38.475.

The Devils entered the Championships ranked 29th, but fell to 32nd following the event.  Now, it’s a matter of picking themselves back up in time for the regionals, which UCLA will be hosting at Pauley Pavillion.  The top two teams from that competition and the top all-around competitors from non-advancing teams from each regional will receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships in Gainesville, Fla.

“This team is definitely very capable of doing some great things,” ASU coach Spini added.  “This gives us one last chance and I am looking forward to putting them on the floor at regionals.”

Now he just has to do a sell job to his team.

(Photo: ASU Athletics/Steve Rodriguez)