PROVO — BYU’s gymnastics team, ranked No. 21, hosts No. 5 Utah Friday at 7 p.m. in the Marriott Center. The Cougars are coming off a second-place finish after falling to No. 18 Penn State while topping Bowling Green and Temple with a 194.525.
“I thought the first meet went really well,” said BYU coach Guard Young. “Traveling to Penn State is not easy because you have to take planes, trains and automobiles to get to campus. Our athletes are in fabulous conditioning shape so they tackled the long weekend well.”
BYU freshman Shannon Hortman led the way with a 38.975 in the all-around. Hortman trained at All-American Gymnastics in Lindon where she was a teammate of Utah gymnasts MaKenna Merrell and Kim Tessen.
“Shannon has shown us she’s a competitor,” said Young.
Jill van Mierlo, who also competed in the all-around last weekend, is back to full strength this year. The junior was hampered by an ankle injury last year that she suffered toward the end of her freshman season.
“It’s nice to have Jill back,” Young said. “We think she is going to shine in the all-around this season.”
Young is also expecting big things from Mackenzie Douglas, who has added difficulty to her routines.
Brittni Wilde Hawes and Jessie Westergard are both walk-ons for BYU. The duo scored a career-high 9.9 on bars in the quad meet.
“I will take a 9.9 all day, any day — anyone would love that score,” said Young.
The Cougars, who were picked to finish third in the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference (MRGC), return 10 gymnasts and have nine newcomers. The conference remains competitive with Boise State favored to win another conference title, followed by Southern Utah, BYU and Utah State.
“Just being in this geographic area is a lot of fun,” said Young. “Not only are there four great teams up and down I-15 in Utah, but you’ve also got Boise State, Denver and Air Force nearby. You don’t have to go very far as a fan to watch good gymnastics.
“Of course leading the charge is Utah, which sets the golden standard. Utah is a great team and we are excited for them to come and be on the same floor. They’ll do their gymnastics, and we’ll do ours — we are not worried about scores.”
Young said his team is focused on hits and sticks because it can control these and not the scores. The coach admits he's a stats geek who runs the numbers after every meet to determine hit and stick percentages, which he is working on to build consistency with this team.
As far as the events, Young is most excited for the Cougar fans to see BYU's floor routines.
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“Heading into our second season as a coaching staff, I challenged our assistant Brogan Evanson to recreate everyone’s floor routine,” said Young. “It was a lot of work, but she’s done a great job — completely different from what anyone has seen at BYU.”
Utah’s MyKayla Skinner was named Pac-12 Freshman and Gymnast of the Week for her 39.55, which ranks fourth nationally. BYU’s Douglas was named Vault Specialist of the Week for the MRGC, while Hawes and Westergard shared bars specialist honors. Hortman was both the Beam Specialist and Gymnast of the Week.