Despite some nagging injury issues maybe fewer than expected for the Utes two of the country's hotter gymnastics programs renew the BYU-Utah rivalry tonight at 7 in the Huntsman Center, where the resident team is 34-0 all-time against the Cougars.
BYU, 7-1 and ranked 13th this week, has won its last six meets, ever since falling to Oklahoma (now ranked ninth) in the season opener at Cancun, Mexico.
"I've been pretty danged happy," BYU coach Brad Cattermole said of his team's season so far.
The Cougars have their best beam team in years (ranked 12th in the NCAA with a 48.481 average) and are vaulting well (ranked eighth, 48.987). It's the first year the Cougars have ever been able to compete six vaults with 10.0 start values.
"On any given night, we can compete with the teams we've seen," Cattermole said, adding that No. 1-ranked, 5-0 Utah will obviously be "the best we've seen."
Utah is not only unbeaten, but it's already beaten second-ranked Michigan and fifth-ranked UCLA (which was No. 1 at the time) in the Huntsman Center and No. 21 Oregon State (ranked 13th at the time), No. 25 Minnesota and No. 34 Utah State on the road.
When healthy, Utah is potentially the strongest it's been in years.
This week has been better for the Utes as junior Gabi Onodi's sore ankle that kept her out last week has improved enough that she at least trained all four events. The bruised heel suffered by sophomore Nicolle Ford in warmups at Minnesota last week was healed enough that she, too, trained all four events and will likely go all-around tonight. She ranks 11th in the country in all-around (39.187).
Coach Greg Marsden said he may hold sophomore Rachel Tidd out of the all-around, where she ranks fifth (39.25), as her sore back acted up a bit after Tuesday's workout. But he had planned to rest her last week and couldn't because of Ford's injury.
Freshman Ashley Postell ranks No. 2 in all-around (39.425).
"This meet, I'm kind of looking forward to," Cattermole said, hoping for a clean outing that could help the Cougars' Regional Qualifying Score, which determines postseason assignments. "If we get a nice high score out of it, I'll be a happy camper."
A tender shoulder will likely keep BYU sophomore Marie-Helene Claveau out of the all-around, where she ranks 30th nationally (39.062), for the first time this season. But she is likely to do the other three events and ranks No. 12 in vaulting (9.862) and 12th on beam (9.812).
Cougar Jaime Mabray is coming off her two best all-arounds of the season (39.40, 39.65). "Jaime is looking really good again; I'm really happy with her," Cattermole said. "She looks happier this year. She's in better shape and having more fun. Some of that is because she's a senior. In other years, she felt like she can't make a mistake. She puts the weight of the world on her shoulders."
Illness has been going through the BYU team, so Cattermole may not know until tonight what his lineup will look like.
Marsden isn't sure, either, especially after Ford's warmups injury last week. For the Utes, the goal over the next few meets is to gradually upgrade their difficulty, especially at the end of their floor routines, and to stick landings. "We want clean, aggressive, competitive routines punctuated with good landings," Marsden said.If she's in the lineup, freshman Katie Kivisto may do upgrades on all three tumbling passes, and senior Gritt Hofmann "is talking about doing her full-in to open her floor for the first time," Marsden said, adding it depends on how she warms up.
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