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Arizona State gymnasts reach 196 points in win over California

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The No. 23 Arizona State gymnastics team hit 196 for only the second time in the past five years in its win over No. 25 California (195.35) Friday night at Wells Fargo Arena.

“What’s really big besides the score, and that’s a great score, is coming back after bad routines on beam and bars, and knocking out five in a row, when we could have easily gone backwards,” ASU coach John Spini said. “That is huge for this team because we only have four upperclassmen, and they’re just learning how to win.”

Natasha Sundby scored the highest mark of the meet for the Sun Devils, with a 9.875 on floor, while Samantha Seaman and Morgan Steigerwalt (9.825), along with Beka Conrad and Risa Perez (9.8) were just behind her on the same event.

“We’re getting better every single meet,” Sundby said, “and it’s really exciting. Even when we’re not at our best, we’re still getting a 196, which says a lot about the team we have this year. I think everybody’s excited about this season. Last year I think we hit a 196 once, so it shows we’re striving so high, and we haven’t even hit our potential yet.”

Last March, ASU closed its regular season with a 196.025 against Bridgeport before placing third at the NCAA Regionals. Prior to that performance, the Sun Devils last saw 196 on the board versus Nebraska on March 13, 2009. In two meets earlier this season, ASU scored 193.625 and 195.9.

Four other Sun Devils reached a high of 9.85 on Friday: Stephanie Miceli and Perez on the balance beam, Brianna Gades on bars, and walk-on sophomore Allie Salas on vault. Serena Leong of the Golden Bears recorded the highest mark of the meet with a 9.9 vault, Alicia Asturias scored an uneven bars-high of 9.875, Jessica Howe tied Miceli and Perez on the beam, and Charlie Owens produced a 9.85 on the floor. Owens (39.175) and Asturias (38.7) were the only all-arounders.

“This team is ready to rock,” Spini said. “We have some great recruits coming in, we’re ready to get back to Nationals, watching them learn and get better was huge tonight. They mentally did not lose their focus. I thought beam really came through, just the energy level and the focus, we have to potential to go forward, but we’re going to take it one meet at a time.”

Sundby and Spini both said if there were anything the team needed to work on it was landings, especially in the vault.

Coach Spini welcomes five freshmen to the team this season: Savannah Borman, Beka Conrad, Gilly Hogue, Victoria Marquez, and Kellie Wanamaker.

“They work really hard,” he said of the newcomers. “Beka Conrad is solid as a rock; they’re just beautiful people, I love that about this team, they’re doing great in school. Kellie Wanamaker is a 4.0 student who’s going to keep getting better and better. Some other kids are going to bring more talent to the team. We have a lot of great parts on this team, the chemistry fits, and that’s what you’re looking for, not just one superstar.”

Next, ASU will host nine-time national champion and No. 4-ranked Utah at 1 p.m. Feb. 1.

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