Potential Lineups: Arizona State

By Caroline Medley


Part two of our Pac-12 analysis series brings us to the Arizona State Sun Devils, who hope to improve on their performance from last season under new head coach Jay Santos. ASU loses seniors Carissa Kraus, Kristine Levin and Allie Salas, but recently announced the return of fifth-year senior Taylor Allex to the team this season. The Sun Devils also gain a large class of incoming freshmen, including many who can contribute to uneven bars, which Santos considers to be the team’s weakest event.

ASU loses strong vaults in the departures of Salas and Kraus, and the overall difficulty of the lineup wasn’t high to begin with. Luckily, Allex returns with her stellar Yurchenko 1.5, and incoming freshman Jessica Ginn may be able to add another 1.5 to the lineup. She hasn’t competed it yet, according to her YouTube channel, but she’s been training it for a solid two

years. Rising sophomores Corinne Belkoff and Katelyn Lentz will bring back decent Yurchenko fulls, and freshman Ashley Szafranski should have one to match. Unfortunately, the Sun Devils will likely still have to count a Yurchenko layout from sophomore Heather Udowitch. They could have some surprises up their sleeve, though, especially with the addition of transfer Nichelle Christopherson from Michigan. She never competed vault at Michigan, but back in her J.O. days she trained a few different Yurchenko vaults, including a double twist. She’ll definitely be a game changer for ASU in more ways than one in the coming season.

On uneven bars, the Sun Devils struggled to find a groove last season, scoring in the 8s quite often. In 2016, ten gymnasts contributed to the bars lineup, and seven of those had at least one fall. If ASU can find some consistency, even as it loses all three seniors from its bars lineup, it may be able to improve on its performance from last season. The new freshmen will be key to this process — Szafranski, Graycee Rushton and Mekayla Jones have all won bar titles at prestigious meets during their J.O. careers. Christopherson will also make an important contribution with a career high of 9.9 at Michigan. ASU will also return routines from veterans Belkoff, Udowitch, Justine Callis, Eileen Imbus and Katelyn Lentz. Competing against the freshmen and Christopherson for lineup spots won’t be easy for these girls, so that competitive spirit should inspire them to step up their game.

The loss of Salas will certainly be felt in leadership on the balance beam, but with Allex returning and senior Beka Conrad stepping up, the Sun Devils should have no problems. Besides Allex and Conrad, ASU will return solid beam sets from Belkoff, Callis, Lentz and Udowitch. The real gems on beam, though, will be in its new freshman class. Victoria Martin has the whole

package with solid acro elements, such as her front aerial to back pike series, and beautiful form on her dance elements. Morgan Hart has a couple beam titles on her record and boasts a unique switch leap to hop full turn combination. And Szafranski placed in the top ten on beam at nationals in 2014 with unique skills like an illusion turn and a full-twisting korbut flip. With the mental toughness of leaders Allex and Conrad, the newer girls should be able to keep their wits about them and bring some excellent new perspective to this tricky event.

With Levin and Salas missing, there may be a few holes in the floor lineup. But with the new additions to the roster, ASU should be good to go on its best event from last season. And with Allex returning, the Sun Devils keep their one E pass from last season. They’ll also return strong routines from Belkoff, Lentz and Udowitch. Callis will also return a floor routine, but her two-pass routine is weaker than those of her fellow veterans. Christopherson will also look to contribute with her power-packed routine. Szafranski and Martin are also strong contenders for the lineup, though their J.O. routines may need slight modifications to fit NCAA routine requirements and difficulty.

In terms of the all around, five gymnasts returning this season competed all four apparatus last season. Allex, Belkoff, Lentz, Udowitch, and the injured Morgan Wilson all had a shot in 2016 to compete in the all around, but each has a “weak” event that might prevent them from doing so in the coming season. Bars is the common denominator between Allex, Belkoff, and Udowitch, but if they can put together a solid routine and stay on the apparatus, maybe they’ll get the call. Lentz’s weakest event would probably be vault, though her Yurchenko full is nothing to sneeze at. As long as she’s healthy, she’ll likely get some more opportunities to compete four pieces this season. From Wilson’s short time in competition last season, it seems that beam might have been her weak spot. So if she’s healthy and ready to compete in time for the 2017 season, she’ll want to focus her efforts there to ensure she gets the chance at the all around. Szafranski will likely make a run at the all around as well with her potential spoiler being floor. She’ll have to pack some punch to beat out any of the veterans for a lineup spot.

Stay tuned for part three tomorrow where we focus on the California Golden Bears! For more potential lineups, check out our lineups page, the SEC series, or previous posts in our Pac-12 series:


Editor’s note: After the time this article was published, it was brought to our attention that Victoria Martin will not be attending ASU, per her Instagram. We will cover her, along with the rest of the University of Iowa, in our Big 10 series. 

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