In the return of this ongoing series, FloGymnastics features collegiate gymnasts who are in their final season. Up next is Justine Callis from Arizona State.
Callis is one of seven seniors on the 2019 Gym Devil squad. She's competed as a specialist for her entire NCAA career, competing bars, beam, and floor. But beam is where Callis really shines, as she's one of Arizona State's best beam workers.
Her career high on the apparatus has improved with each year, beginning with a 9.750 as a freshman to 9.800 as a sophomore to 9.900 as a junior and recently earning a near-perfect 9.925 in the Gym Devils' first Pac-12 meet against UCLA on January 21. Her career-high performance at UCLA was the best of the meet, giving Callis her first event title of the season and her first Pac-12 weekly honor.
FloGymnastics: What is your major, and what do you hope to do with a degree in that?
My major is Journalism and Mass Communication with an emphasis in Multi-Media Production, Videography, and Digital Analytics. The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism has given me a multitude of skills I look forward to using in the professional world, I would love to start a career utilizing the belt of tools I have [acquired] at Cronkite! Whether it be in Production or Business, I can't wait for what's coming after graduation in May.
What has been your favorite NCAA gym memory so far?
My favorite NCAA gym memory so far has been witnessing many of my [teammates'] relationship with God blossom over their time at ASU. We get together once a week in my apartment for a team Bible study where we get to support one another, cry and laugh together, talk about God, and identify how we can center our lives around love. I have personally gotten to witness their growth on and off of the mat and I'm kind of like a proud Mom cheering them on in the background. Many NCAA gym fans get to see our smiles and performances during competition, but there's so much more. These girls have hearts of gold. They are strong, uplifting, talented, hard working women and will make such an impact in this world far beyond gymnastics.
What has being an Arizona State gymnast taught you?
Being an Arizona State gymnast has taught me how to fight for excellence in every area of my life. At ASU we emphasize that while life is sometimes difficult, we are in control of how we can respond to our circumstances. From the classroom to competition, representing Sundevil Athletics has been nothing short of an honor and I will always be very proud to call myself an Arizona State University Student-Athlete.
What is your favorite Gym Devil leotard you have gotten to wear?
My favorite Gymdevil leotard came from my freshman season. We no longer wear the leotard, but our Associate Head Coach, Jessica Santos, surprised us my Junior year by recreating it in different colors. My favorite part of the leotard is the amount of crystals on the front and the cut out back that reads "ASU."
What skill that you haven't yet competed would you like to compete or learn?
A skill that I have never competed but would have liked to is an Onodi on beam! I think they are unique and elegant!
Many gym fans know you for your beautiful beam work. You earned a career-high 9.925 at UCLA this season and won the beam title there. What was it like competing at the arena of the reigning NCAA champs and winning beam there, against the Bruins?
Competing in the arena of the reigning NCAA champions and winning beam there was truly one of the best moments of my career. The energy in that arena was exciting, and the fans were there to see some good gymnastics. I used that as fuel to just perform like I do in practice day in and day out. I fed off of the crowd and how supportive my teammates are. I felt the pressure competing against UCLA, but I did my best to use it as an advantage. Pressure is a privilege.
How do you plan on staying involved with the sport after this season?
I come from a big gymnastics family, my aunt was an ASU gymnast and my mother was also a college gymnast. My mother was a coach and a judge after she retired and will always be a lifelong lover of the sport. My aunt is subscribed to every gymnastics publication you can think of (including Flo!) and we just can't get enough. I have plans to stay very involved in gymnastics after this season, and I aspire to be a (beam and floor) choreographer after I retire as a gymnast.
What is your favorite thing about Arizona State?
My favorite thing about Arizona State is genuinely the University's passionate commitment to innovation. Over my four years here I have witnessed the constant effort to always be better (#1 in Innovation all four years I have been a Sundevil!). Being able to experience the culture and pride here has been a blessing. There is a theme at ASU to take just enough time to be proud of who we are and where we came from, while also never getting comfortable and constantly striving for the next step in progress. On the gymnastics team we love to say, "Be Humble, Stay Hungry."
You grew up doing competitive dance in addition to gymnastics. How has this helped your gymnastics?
My past as a competitive dancer has given me a substantial advantage in my gymnastics career. I had strength and body awareness from gymnastics that contributed to my success in dance, and in return I gained grace, rhythm, and the ability to perform for a crowd that really allowed my gymnastics to flourish. I had so much fun in both, choosing to be a full-time dancer or a full-time gymnast was one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make. I am looking forward to picking dance back up after my competitive gymnastics career comes to a close.
The Arizona State women's gymnastics program has experienced tremendous growth and improvement during your time as a Gym Devil, especially since Jay and Jess Santos were hired. What has it been like working with them and seeing the team and program flourish?
The past four years have been a unique and influential point in history for us. I'm honored that I've gotten to experience what it takes to turn a program around. At times this has been the most difficult thing I've ever been a part of, but I am reminded on a daily basis that it has simultaneously been the most beautiful fight I've ever experienced. Mentally, physically, and emotionally I have given my heart to this program. Jay and Jessica Santos have a fire inside of them to take every aspect of this team to the next level. I admire their high standards and dedication to success. I'm humbled to experience the fruits of our labor, but we are just getting started.