2008 Gymnastics Outlook
Jan. 2, 2008
There are three keys to a successful 2008 season for the preseason No. 21 Sun Devil gymnastics program, according to 28th year head Coach John Spini.
'Confidence, consistency and leadership' says Spini, 'are the main goals for the season.'
After a disappointing 2007 season that was plagued with injuries, the 2008 Sun Devils will look forward to a fresh start with a young team. Spini will look to his five returning juniors and lone sophomore to lead the team to its 27th consecutive NCAA regional championships.
Nicole Harris (Long Beach, N.Y.) leads the group of talented juniors. Harris returns to the squad after a successful 2007 season in which she was named an All-Pac-10 gymnast and scored career-highs on vault, beam and floor. With expectations to become an All-American as she did in her freshman campaign, Coach Spini will depend on her to contribute the same drive and enthusiasm she has the past two years.
'Nicole is one of our top athletes and all-arounders,' says Spini, 'She was one of the few on the team last year that could consistently hit all four events.'
Also returning to the squad after being out for the past year and a half due to injury is Tia Orlando (Philadelphia, Pa.). With her international competition experience, Orlando could prove to be a strong all-arounder and leader to the young Sun Devil squad.
'Tia is such a powerful athlete and much of our success this upcoming season is going to depend on how she can come back from injury,' says Spini.
Ashlee Hinkle (Glendale, Ariz.) is yet another junior Spini is expecting a lot from this season. A former Most Improved Gymnast award recipient, Hinkle will again compete in three events for the Sun Devils. With her strength being on beam, she also provides undoubted consistency on vault and floor.
'We want Ashlee to come back stronger than ever,' says Spini, 'she is one of our most consistent gymnasts and we look forward to her bringing that back this year.'
Tiana Jean (Puyallup, Wash.) returns to the Sun Devil squad after having a very successful sophomore campaign. In the 2007 season, Jean was arguably the most improved and one of the most consistent members of her team. With the excitement she brings on bars, as well as her talent and consistency on beam and floor, Jean is expected to pick up where she left off and keep improving.
'Tiana is one our most athletic and talented gymnasts,' says Spini, 'We love the competitive spirit she brings to the team; it makes her a natural leader.'
Carrie Finley (Doylestown, Penn.) rounds out the junior class. She stepped into the lineup on vault and floor last season, when the team needed her most and will continue to do the same this season.
'Carrie is the definition of a team player,' says Spini, 'Her work ethic and positive attitude constantly pushes the team to new heights.'
The Sun Devils return just one sophomore to their team for the upcoming 2008 season. Kaitlynn Bormann (Huntington, N.Y.) rejoins the team to improve on her efforts in her freshman season. She is expected to compete on vault, bars and beam.
'Kaitlynn is a very talented athlete,' says Spini, 'I do not feel she came even close to reaching her full potential last season and I hope she can do so this season. She has so much to offer this team.'
The Sun Devils welcome six new faces to their team. Mary Atkinson, Skye Gentile, Beaté Jones, Francesca Mercurio, Stephannie Moore and Brittany Schuett join the Sun Devil squad for the 2008 season. Full of talent and enthusiasm, Spini is very excited to see what the freshmen can bring to the team.
'Much of our squad depends on how well our freshmen can perform; both under pressure and on a consistent basis' says Spini, 'They are a dynamic group of girls and I am excited to see how they compete.'
Coming to Tempe from Chesapeake, Va., Atkinson joins the squad as a potential all-arounder. Strong in all four events, she brings enthusiasm and leadership to the team. As a member of the prestigious Barrett Honors College, Atkinson brings excellence not only in the gym but in the classroom as well.
'Mary is a great athlete and great student,' says Spini, 'We hope she is everything she is capable of being and are very excited to see what she will bring to the team in competition.'
Gentile arrives to Tempe from Southern California. After battling an injury her senior year of high school, the Newport Beach native trained hard over the summer and has the potential to compete on bars, beam and floor.
'Skye has improved a great deal on bars over the summer before coming to Tempe,' says Spini, 'She could also help us out on beam and floor.'
A late signee, Jones comes from Red Bank, N.J., to bring power to the Sun Devils. A standout athlete on vault, Jones is capable of being not only one of the best vaulters on the team but also in the nation. Jones is also solid on bars, beam and floor making her a potential all-arounder for the Sun Devils.
'Beaté is one of the most exciting gymnasts to watch,' says Spini. 'Her power and never-ending smile make her a spark plug for the team. She's got the attitude and energy to change the atmosphere around her.'
Mercucio hails from San Mateo, Calif., to join the Sun Devils. Coming from one of the premier gyms in the country, Francesca joins the Sun Devils as a potential all arounder.
'Francesca is a very intelligent, strong athlete who I think is only going to get better in college,' says Spini, 'She has impeccable form and long lines making her a beautiful gymnast to watch.'
Although coming off an injury, Moore joins the Sun Devils as yet another strong all-arounder. A native of Las Vegas, Moore brings routines packed with a high level of difficulty to the Sun Devil squad.
'Stephannie was one of the first ones to commit to us,' says Spini, 'She is a very talented gymnast.'
Schuett joins the team at the start of the spring semester, hailing from Ontario, Canada. Schuett comes to Tempe as one of the most highly-touted athletes on floor. She is also gifted on beam and vault.
'We are so happy to have Brittany on our team,' says Spini, 'She will bring so much excitement to our floor and beam teams. She is extremely talented in three events and has some international experience.'
What had been one of the Sun Devils thinner and weaker events of the 2007 season is expected to be much stronger for the 2008 season. The Sun Devils have eight capable 10.0 vaulters this season.
'Our vault team has tremendously improved from last season,' says Spini.
Four of the incoming freshmen have strong vaults and could very likely make the lineup. Harris and Hinkle will be the backbone of the vault team. Jones is also expected to make an immediate impact on vault.
'Beate is an outstanding vaulter,' says Spini.
Atkinson, Mercurio and Moore will also be major contributors on vault. Bormann, Finley and Schuett will compete for action on vault as well.
With one of the most difficult routines in the country, Harris leads the bar lineup for the Devils and is expected to anchor the event. Orlando is also expected to come back strong on bars. Jean, who had been one of the most consistent bar performers last season, returns to the lineup bringing NCAA experience to the team. Bormann will also be looked upon to help on bars.
Freshmen Atkinson, Gentile, Jones, Mercurio and Moore are expected to challenge for a spot in the bar lineup. Spini expects the most out of Mercucio and Atkinson.
'Nicole and Tia are both extremely talented on bars,' says Spini, 'Mary and Francesca also have very clean and strong routines.'
The ASU gymnastics team has had some of the highest beam scores across the country for the past few years, including a perfect 10 from April Boone last season. This year's squad looks to be no different. Led by Harris, who was a 2005 All-American on balance beam, the team brings both veteran talent and new faces to the 2008 rotation.
Orlando will likely be another standout on beam. Hinkle and Jean also return to the lineup bringing more experience and a great deal of consistency to the team.
The last two spots in the beam lineup will be a battle as Atkinson, Bormann, Gentile, Jones, Mercurio, Moore and Schuett are all valid competitors. All will likely see some time in the lineup.
'Nicole and Tia both have very strong routines,' says Spini, 'I feel gymnastics meets are won on balance beam. We're excited to put together what could be one of our strongest beam teams yet.'
With the recruitment of three outstanding floor workers in Atkinson, Moore and Schuett, the Sun Devils look forward to the floor exercise as a bright spot in the 2008 season.
Much of how the Sun Devils are expected to do on floor in the upcoming season depends on how Orlando and Moore come back from injury.
'Tia and Stephannie are our best performers on floor,' says Spini, 'How we do in the event really depends on how they return from injury.'
Harris, Hinkle and Jean are also expected to come back to the floor lineup, with freshmen Atkinson, Moore and Schuett to join them. Finley, Gentile, Jones and Mercurio are all expected to try for spots on the floor team as well.
Five athletes could potentially compete in the all-around in the 2008 season. Harris, who was named All-Pac-10 in the all-around last season, comes back as the top performer.
Spini sees four of the six freshmen consistently competing in the all-around competition. Atkinson, Jones, Mercurio and Moore are all capable in all four events and are expected to participate in the all-around.
Spini returns his coaching staff from the previous season and expects more out of them this upcoming season. Maggie (Germaine) EthierGermaineand Bob Peterson both return as assistant coaches to Spini.
'Bob and Maggie both now have more experience coaching at the college level,' says Spini, 'I am expecting them to continue to produce strong routines but to monitor them more. They are very capable coaches.'
Ethier moves up to associate head coach this season after serving two years as an assistant coach. She is expected to continue coaching beam and floor. She choreographs routines for both events, as well as has a huge hand in recruiting.
In his second full year, Peterson's primary responsibilities continue to be vault and bars. He is also in charge of preseason conditioning for the team.
The Sun Devils enjoy their practices in a new state-of-the-art gym. With the new facility, they are able to condition more thoroughly and are able to train harder earlier, due to the softer landing surfaces.'While we will always be grateful to Desert Lights for providing us with facilities for years,' says Spini, 'we are so excited to have a gym that is designed just the way we want it.'Some of the gym's amenities include in ground pits and resi's to save ankles, cameras and TV's for the gymnasts to record and view their routines, luxurious locker rooms and brand new equipment.
The Sun Devils look forward to a tough and full schedule, highlighted by six home meets. The Sun Devils kickoff the 2008 campaign shortly after the New Year in Las Vegas on Jan. 4. UCLA and Oregon State join the Sun Devils in Las Vegas for the Lady Luck Invitational. Following their trip to Las Vegas, the Sun Devils travel to the Midwest to compete against Nebraska on Sunday January 13. The Sun Devils travel to the Bay Area to compete against California in a Pac-10 meet on Jan 18.
The Sun Devils return to Tempe for a three-meet homestand. They kickoff their home season against long-time rival Utah on Jan. 25. Five days later they play host again to Pac-10 rival Oregon State on Wednesday Jan 30. On Feb. 15, the Sun Devils take on in-state rival Arizona at home.
Following their meet with Arizona, the Sun Devils take a trip to the Pacific Northwest to compete against Washington.
The Sun Devils then return home for three consecutive home meets. Beginning with the UNO's Flip for the Cure, the Sun Devils play host to Stanford, San Jose St. and UW Oshkosh on Feb. 29 in a breast cancer awareness meet. On March 7, the Sun Devils will compete against Boise St. and Penn St. in a tri-meet. The following week marks the final home meet of the 2008 season for the Sun Devils as Ohio State makes the trip to the Valley of the Sun on March 14.
The Sun Devils travel to Missouri for their last dual meet of the season on March 21. They then head back to the state of Washington for the Pac-10 championships on the March 29. The Sun Devils will then travel to an NCAA Regional and end the season at the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga.
TOMORROW | 6:00pm PTLive
Thu 1/26 | 6:30pm PTLive