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Aggie gymnastics' seniors culminate long journey with WAC championships

By Doug Hoffman

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, March 22 2012 1:53 p.m. MDT

LOGAN — For the two seniors on the Utah State gymnastics team, this weekend’s Western Athletic Conference Gymnastics Championship is a chance to close out the regular season — and their careers as Aggies — in front of friends and family.

For the first time since 2006, the WAC Championship is being held in Logan in the familiar confines of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

“It’s exciting to have it here,” said Haley Hogan, a senior from Centerville, Utah. “My parents have never been able to come to the WAC meet, so I’m excited for them and my old teammates to be able to come and watch.”

As the team has been mathematically eliminated from the postseason regional meet, the WAC Championship is the culminating meet for the team as a whole. Head coach Jeff Richards said the team is excited about the advantage it has of hosting the meet.

“It’s exciting to be at home. We like being at home in front of our crowd; our fans are great at home," he said. “It’s nice because they’ll have that comfortable feel going into it.”

Richard said the most important thing in preparation for Saturday is treating it like an everyday meet. The team is striving to maintain a routine.

“We’re just preparing them mentally to stay in the game, helping them rally themselves, not trying to overdo it when they get to the meet,” Richards said. “We don’t want them to go into it thinking ‘Oh, it’s the WAC, so I have to win.’ We just want them to do their gymnastics like they do every day.”

The Aggies’ other senior, Rebecca Holliday, said even after having the team work with a sports psychologist, the biggest thing they took from it was realizing how prepared and focused they already are.

“This week we’re really just focusing on doing our thing and having fun,” Holliday, a native of Orange, Calif., said. “It’s not about doing anything extra, just being us.”

Hogan agreed when she said, “We’re just concentrating on doing what we know how to do, and being confident about it. That’s the only thing we really need to do.”

Looking back on 'Roller coaster' Aggie careers

For Hogan and Holliday, it has been a bumpy ride to get to this point in their gymnastics careers. Both have fought through injuries and tough seasons that have severely impacted their time as Aggies.

“It’s been a wild ride. It’s really been a roller coaster with a lot of ups and downs,” Holliday said.

Richards’ first year as coach was the same year the duo came in as freshmen. He has had the opportunity to work with them and see them grow as student-athletes and as individuals.

“It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been interesting to see them through it,” Richards said.

From the beginning, Richards has described Holliday as “high-strung.” However, through the years, he has been able to watch her grow up and learn to relax and keep calm. After a rough sophomore season followed by an even rougher junior season, she has put up a fight and bounced back better than Richards expected she would.

“To see her bounce back from last year has been neat because I wasn’t sure she’d be able to do that. It’s been cool to see her recover and get tougher and have a better year,” he said. “She probably could have done a little bit better, but you’re always going to think that. She’s always been on the verge of getting that 39.000 in the all-around, but just always has that one event that trips her up.”

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