The name was new but little else was changed Saturday night at the first Western Athletic Conference Gymnastics Championships. The nation's No. 1-ranked University of Utah Utes swept the all-around, led by sophomore Kristen Kenoyer, and scored 194.4 to win their sixth conference championship in a row.
In years past, it was the High Country Athletic Conference, which disbanded at the end of last season.Second was No. 6-ranked Brigham Young with 189.20, enough to improve the Cougars' Regional Qualifying Score a little but not as high as their recent totals, which have been in the 190s. Two falls on bars, the Cougars' first event, put them in a hole. Denver finished third (186), followed by Boise State (184.25) and host New Mexico (170.55).
The Utes' score was .1 less than it scored to win the final HCAC championship in 1990 and is the school's eighth-best total ever and fourth-best on the road ever. It will help improve Utah's best-in-the-nation RQS as it is the U.'s second-highest road score of the season.
Utah, the only winner in the history of the WAC/HCAC meet, got solid all-around efforts from Kenoyer, junior Shelly Schaerrer and senior Jessica Smith. Kenoyer scored a championship-record 39.25 to edge teammate Schaerrer (39.15) and Smith (38.7).
Brigham Young's best was senior Marianne Squires, who finished tied for fourth with Ute junior Missy Marlowe, each with 38.5s.
Kenoyer had scored 39.3, her personal best, last week. Kenoyer's four-event total included a meet- and school-record-tying 9.9 on beam.
Schaerrer tied the meet and school record on floor with 9.9.
Marlowe, the nation's top-rated all-arounder and uneven bars worker, was a winner on the bars with 9.85, was in the chase for the all-around crown until she toppled off the beam. Marlowe was named WAC Gymnastics Athlete of the Year.
Utah Coach Greg Marsden, voted the first WAC Gymnastics Coach of the Year, was pleased with his team's effort since it was finals week at Utah and few formal practices were held, with the emphasis on schoolwork. "I expect all the kids to do well every meet, but obviously Kristen, Shelly and Jessica really had a great night. We did well in this kind of environment. We were happy to get out of this one hitting a lot of routines and getting a fairly good score," said Marsden.
Brigham Young Coach Brad Cattermole was not entirely displeased with his team's performance, despite finishing five points behind the Utes. "The score will bring up our RQS, so that's good. I wish we'd done bars at the end of the meet (instead of first), because the scores flew at the end. I think we should have scored better on bars, but we have to quit talking about it and just do it. We had to count two falls, and we have to stop doing that."
Utah went 1-2-3 on three of four events, and the meet's outcome was never in doubt. Kenoyer's evening included a first-place finish on vault (9.8, tied with Schaerrer), 9.75 on bars, 9.9 on beam and a 9.8 on floor.