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Pac-12 gymnasts to compete for conference titles this weekend

The Arizona State gymnastics team celebrates last weekend versus Northern Illinois.
The Arizona State gymnastics team celebrates last weekend versus Northern Illinois.Scott Mammoser

Arizona State enters the Pacifc-12 Conference gymnastics champions Saturday in Berkeley, Calif., as the No. 7-ranked team, as top seeds Utah and UCLA are coming off strong performances.

The first rotation, beginning at 1 p.m. PT, will consist of the Utes (fifth in the nation, 197.365 average), Bruins (seventh, 197.005), Stanford (10th, 196.640), and defending conference champion Oregon State (11th, 196.610).

The evening rotation, at 6:30 p.m. PT, will include host California (19th, 196.095), Arizona (21st, 196.035), the Sun Devils (22nd, 195.745), and Washington (195.100).

“I’m very pleased where we are,” ASU coach John Spini said after last week’s final home meet. “Morgan (Steigerwalt) was huge tonight (career-high 9.875 on beam), she can not be beat up in all of the events, getting her in three events was huge for us. Typically, going into Pac-12s we try to get a top score and do well at Regionals.”

Natasha Sundby of ASU is ranked sixth on floor in the Pac-12 (9.89) and is also the leading Sun Devils on vault (9.83). Carissa Kraus is eighth on the uneven bars (9.875), and Risa Perez is ninth on the balance beam (9.855).

“I think this team is really strong,” ASU assistant coach Hollie Vise said. “I think we can definitely make it to Nationals this year. We just have to focus on the details, and those details can really add up. That’s the difference between second and third place at Regionals, and only the top two qualify for Nationals.”

UCLA sophomore Danusia Francis knocked out a perfect 10 on the balance beam March 16, and is now third in the NCAA. Samantha Peszek posted a career-high 39.7 all-around score last week at her Senior Day at Pauley Pavilion. The 2007 world team gold medalist and 2008 Olympic team silver medalist is the 2011 NCAA champion on the balance beam. Defending Pac-12 floor champion Olivia Courtney equaled the career high she set last year at 9.95; she is also the 2011 and 2012 conference vault champion.

Kailah Delaney and Tory Wilson of Utah are now tied for the top vaulters in the country with 9.945 averages, and Georgia Dabritz, the 2012 Pac-12 uneven bars champion, is also currently ranked fist on bars and third on floor. Wilson currently leads Chelsea Tang of the Beavers by a little more than a half of a point for the Pac-12’s all-around average.

Kristin Klarenbach of the Wildcats is fourth on floor exercises in the conference (9.905), while Shelby Edwards leads Arizona on vault (9.87) and beam (9.835), and Allison Flores averages a 9.85 bars routine.

“The team is just going to keep building, 196, 197.5, I want us to go 197 this year, and I think it will happen,” ASU senior Sammie Seaman said.