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The Right Fit
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 01/02/2013
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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
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Jan. 2, 2013

Last season the fervor around the Arizona State women’s gymnastics team started to pick up. The previous season saw the Sun Devils left out the NCAA title hunt and anxious to show off their true potential. With two-key acquisitions by head coach John Spini, the Gym Devils earned the title of the “most improved” team in collegiate gymnastics. Spini directly attributes the success to bringing on former Arizona State gymnast and Academic All-American Kari Muth Ward and the recent hire of 2011 NWGCA Assistant Coach of the Year Tom Ward from Kent State.

“My staff is so important to me and impact every area of the program, “ said Spini. “I really want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication my coaches bring to the table and show off how valuable of an asset they are to Arizona State.”

One of the biggest impacts so far on the program is the resurgence in recruiting, spear headed by Kari Ward.

“Recruiting was a huge priority of mine,” said Kari Ward. “I wanted to reorganize the whole process. [Last year’s freshmen class] was my first starting recruiting class and they seem to be doing well!”

Another top priority for Kari Ward is the team’s academics. As a gymnast at ASU, Ward was a multiple Academic All-American and Pac-12 Academic honoree and graduated suma cum laude with a degree in finance in 2005.

“We talk about what [the gymnasts] want to do after college and I think that is a better way to motivate them,” said Ward. “Gymnastics does end in four years and our goal is to get them to graduate and get a job or continue pursuing higher education.”

Also contributing to the Gym Devils’ recent success is the addition of the 2011 NWGCA Assistant Coach of the Year Tom Ward from Kent State. Tom Ward is beginning his second season as a part of the coaching staff and his impact on the team was an immediate one.

Senior Amelia Rew noted that Tom Ward’s influence has helped encourage her on her events.

“He’s so enthusiastic and seeing his reaction when you do well on bars is so rewarding,” said Rew. “His energy really motivates me while I’m competing and pushes me to want to do better.”

The team’s success in comparison to the previous year was evident to Tom Ward.

“Last year was a step forward,” said Ward. “Taking fourth at NCAA Regionals after missing qualifying the year before? I don’t think there is another team, actually I know there is not, [who] has accomplished that.”

Most importantly, Tom Ward attributes the success to the dynamic between himself and Kari Ward.

“Kari runs her stuff exactly like I would want a coach to do,” said Tom Ward. “We have different strengths too. I think that is what you look for on your staff. I think we’ve got enough diversity in our background to compliment each other.”

“Obviously I’m not a choreographer,” Tom Ward jokes. “And Kari’s fantastic.”

Kari Ward echos Tom’s sentiments saying, “In any successful team you need a cooperative staff behind them, and that’s something that we do have among all three of us.  I think Tom is just so passionate and that comes through in everything he does. And the girls really respect that.”

The Gym Devils open their season Jan. 12 at Wells Fargo Arean in a 2 p.m. matchup against Oklahoma. Click here for the complete 2013 schedule.

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