ASU raids Arkansas, taps Rene Lyst to coach gymnastics

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                </div>  Ray Anderson, the new athletic director at Arizona State, found the experience he was looking for in a new gymnastics coach, picking a highly-successful career assistant to replace hall-of-fame […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Ray Anderson, the new athletic director at Arizona State, found the experience he was looking for in a new gymnastics coach, picking a highly-successful career assistant to replace hall-of-fame coach, John Spini.

Rene Lyst has become the second major coaching hire for the Sun Devils in the short three months since Anderson was wooed away from his VP position at the NFL (see phxfan article 1/9/14).  The first was his decision three weeks ago to make former Olympian Zeke Jones the new head coach for the wrestling program (see phxfan article 4/10/14).

Jones and Lyst have one thing in common: they both arrived with resumes loaded with experience.  Once again, the new AD hasn’t gone out on a limb by picking Lyst.  “Passionate”… “disciplined”… “hard-working”… “impressive” – all words her colleagues around college sports are using to describe the latest hire.

She leaves her position as co-head coach of the gymnastics program at the University of Arkansas after arriving there in 2001 to help start the Razorback program from scratch.  When she arrived with the new staff in May of that year, there was no gym, no equipment, no uniforms, and no team.

Lyst came from Stanford to help build the Razorback program into one of the best in the country.  The first year of competition was 2003 and since 2005 the program has never finished ranked lower than 15th nationally.  The Razorbacks have qualified for 11 NCAA Regionals as a team, have made seven appearances in the NCAA championships, and have accumulated five top-10 finishes.

Now she takes the reins of a program that Spini spent 34 years developing into a national force.  During that time, ASU teams have made 32 post-season appearances and qualified for the NCAA championships 21 times.

The 2014 team finished in fourth place at the NCAA Regionals.

The shoes she has to fill belong to a man considered a pioneer in the sport, someone named Pac-10 Coach of the Year four times, and an inductee into the USAG Arizona Gymnastics Hall of Fame.  She’ll be working in a training facility named after him.

John Spini (358-235-2) has cast a long shadow over ASU gymnastics, but it may not take Lyst long to get out from underneath it.  Her success at Arkansas says a lot about her abilities, and her coaching resume also includes four years as an assistant at Stanford, during which time the Cardinal won a pair of Pac-10 titles.  Before that, she spent a year on the coaching staff at Penn State and a couple more at UMass.

Her responsibilities at Arkansas included assisting with all four events, but her area of concentration was as beam coach.  During her collegiate career at Penn State she set a program record with a 9.9 score and was the 1992 Big 10 champion in that event.

Anderson relied heavily on her proven success at Arkansas in making his selection, citing Lyst’s passion, drive, and championship expectations.  He explained that “Her success in building a program at Arkansas gave us great confidence in her ability to have our program compete for an NCAA championship.”

And, in keeping with tradition established by just about every coach hired to a new school, Lyst calls the move to Tempe her “dream job.”

But she also appears to have an appreciation for what she is inheriting.  “John Spini is a legend in our sport,” she said at the announcement of her hire this week, “and it is my goal to continue to build upon Arizona State’s legacy of winning tradition… I can’t wait to be a part of Sun Devil Nation.”

(Photo: ASU Athletics)