Utah State’s gymnastics team is set to lift the lid on its 2017 home campaign with a tri-meet against No. 16 North Carolina State and Bowling Green on Friday, Jan. 13, at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
The event begins at 7 p.m., and will be streamed live on USU's athletic website. Additionally, live scores will be available online. Fans can also follow along on Twitter by following @USUGymnastics.
“The whole team is really excited to be at home this weekend in the Spectrum,” said senior gymnast Hayley Sanzotti. “We love the atmosphere and the fans, and it will be really fun to compete and show off all of our hard work during the preseason.”
Friday’s event is Utah State’s annual “Pink-Out Meet.” Fans wearing pink will receive $1 admission to the meet, and the first 100 fans will get a free pink gymnastics T-shirt.
The Aggies (1-1) are 30-15 all-time in home openers, a record that takes several multi-team meets into account. Under fourth-year head coach Nadalie Walsh, Utah State is 3-0 in home openers.
“I’m really ready to be at another meet, whether it’s at home or away,” Walsh said. “I just have wanted to get the team out on the floor again as soon as possible because they have so much potential and we’ve had some of the best practices we’ve had all year. Not doing as well as they expected at first, and as much as it was humbling and disappointing, it definitely motivated them and we, as a staff, will see a totally different mentality and team out on the floor on Friday.”
The Aggies come into Friday’s competition fresh off a second-place finish at the Arizona tri-meet, where Utah State posted a 191.600 – its lowest score since the 2013 campaign.
“We know we’re a better team than the score we got last week,” Sanzotti said. “So, this week in the gym we’ve had to do some mental shifts and we focused on the first routine we did in practice on each event to simulate a meet environment. We just have to go out there and do our gymnastics and not second-guess ourselves because we’ve put in all the hard work and the numbers."
Walsh agreed with Sanzotti.
“Everybody is ready to go out there and show our fans, our school and the gymnastics community that not doing well the first meet was a fluke and they’re ready to hit the ground running and make a very big jump in their team score,” she said.
In the season opener against Arizona and Texas Woman’s, sophomore Madison Ward was the lone Aggie gymnast to capture an event title. The native of Rexburg, Idaho, won the floor with a 9.825 and subsequently was tabbed the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference Floor Specialist of the Week.
“It was really exciting having Madi get the MRGC Floor Specialist of the Week accolades,” Walsh said. “To come out of that meet and see that Madi was getting rewarded for her hard work just broke a little bit of the downers off of everybody and made everyone realize we’re still getting really positive recognition and some really great things came out of that first meet, so let’s just move on and go out and do a better job this weekend.”
North Carolina State is seeking its first victory of the young season following a 197.100-194.925 setback to No. 3 Florida last Sunday in Raleigh, North Carolina. Like the Wolfpack, Bowling Green is also looking to break into the win column after placing fourth with a team score of 190.725 last weekend at the Penn State quad-meet.
This is just the second-ever meeting between the Aggies and Falcons. Utah State captured the only other matchup with the Falcons, 196.000-194.175, at the UCLA tri-meet on March 16, 2014, in Los Angeles, California.
The Aggies are 1-2 all-time against North Carolina State, including 1-0 at home, 0-1 on the road and 0-1 at a neutral site. Utah State’s lone win against the Wolfpack was a 196.675-195.775 victory at the Spectrum on March 14, 2003.
In the 2003 meeting with North Carolina State, the Aggies’ Nicole Kilpatrick recorded a 39.525 in the all-around, which is tied for second in school history. Utah State’s 196.675 is the second-highest team score in program history and the highest home score the Aggies have produced. USU posted two school record team scores in the meet with a 49.175 on vault (now tied for fourth) and a 49.325 on bars (now tied for third).
The Aggies, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary of gymnastics this year, have eight returning gymnasts and eight newcomers – all freshmen. In 2016, Utah State went 8-15 overall, including 7-8 in the regular season. The Aggies defeated Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference rivals BYU and Southern Utah twice during the year and placed fifth at the NCAA Regional Championships.