PROVO — Brigham Young’s women’s gymnastics team opens its season Friday when it travels to the Huntsman Center to face fourth-ranked Utah. And like Utah, BYU enters its 2016 campaign under a new coaching regime.
Three new faces take the reins from head coach Brad Cattermole and assistant coach, and Brad’s wife, Dawn Cattermole who both retired at last season’s conclusion after leading the Cougars for nearly three decades.
Although BYU has three new coaches, none is unfamiliar to the University. New head coach Guard Young competed for the Cougars from 1996-2000, where he was a six-time All-American and two-time national champion on vault. He also earned a team silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games. He joins BYU after serving as an assistant for the past five seasons for the Oklahoma men’s program, which won the 2015 NCAA title.
“It’s hard to replace Brad and Dawn,” said Young. “They were coaching my sister (Jessica) even before I got to BYU and are family friends.
“But we have two great assistant coaches who are also former Cougars, and all of us believe in what BYU is about. It is time for this new coaching staff to make our mark.”
Joining Young on the coaching staff is Natalie Broekman, who competed for the Cougars from 1996-99 and Brogan Evanson, who was on BYU’s squad from 2001-04. Evanson holds a connection to Utah as she was an assistant under now Utah co-head coach Tom Farden, while at Southeast Missouri State.
Young and his staff are optimistic heading into the season because their team is healthy and nine-deep in each of the four events. The Cougars will be led by senior Makenzie Johnson Halliday in the all-around and sophomore Jill Van Mierlo, while they are also expecting strong contributions from senior Emily Vidmar and freshman Natasha Trejo. Van Mierlo was the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference’s freshman of the year in 2015.
“Our gymnasts have done nothing but impress me because, for many, this (a new coaching staff) is not what they signed up for,” said Young. “They’ve bought into our extended workouts, our goal to increase our difficulty, and are adjusting to new approaches.”
Young is excited to open the season, and especially at Utah if the opener has to be on the road since he has attended meets in the Huntsman Center.
“It’s awesome to have that type of fan base whether they are cheering for you or yelling at you,” said Young. “The energy those fans bring elevates everyone’s gymnastics, and it’s a great tradition to have this meet.
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“The thing our team has to remember is it doesn’t matter what Utah does because there isn’t defense in gymnastics — it’s us and the beam, us and the floor, and so on.”
Utah continues to dominate the rivalry with a 93-2 advantage, having never lost to the Cougars in Salt Lake. BYU last won in 1998. BYU’s Johnson Halliday is married to Utah football player Jon Halliday. Red Rock Maddy Stover and BYU’s Van Mierlo and Vidmar trained together at Wildfire Gymnastics in California.