Despite adversity, they have bettered their school record by more than four points in less than a year, and BYU women's gymnastics Coach Brad Cattermole looks for another point of improvement Saturday when the Cougars host the High Country Athletic Conference finals in the Marriott Center at 7 p.m.
He seems to know what he's talking about. Cattermole predicted a 188 or 189 total for the Cougars if everything went right Monday in their meet at No. 1-ranked Utah; they scored 189.05 and not everything went right because top all-arounder Korie Jackman was ill and suffered a fall on beam and wobbles in floor exercise. If she's better Saturday, she alone could add .5 point to the Cougar total."It probably is a big turnaround for one year," Cattermole says, not wanting to be too self-congratulatory because he hopes to establish a long-term tradition of excellence modeled after the Utes' program.
Cattermole and wife Dawn, both club coaches, took over at BYU in midseason 1988 when the former coaches resigned. BYU scored in the 182 range until the '88 HCAC meet at Logan, when it hit a school-record 185.
With Cattermole's first recruiting class including Jackman and beam specialist Shauna Sudbury, and with renewed vigor from team leaders like sophomore Marianne Williams and juniors Wendy Hutchings and Bev Snell, the Cougars overcame early problems and became a team to be reckoned with.
The problems? Kobi Love quit to get married after a couple of meets, and Angela Carbone suffered a season-ending knee injury just as the season started. Both were among the Cougars' top five. Nagging illness and injury, too, have slowed the team.
Through the trials of the last year and a half, the Cougars have come together, and that is probably their biggest strength, Cattermole says.
"The change in the team this year is that they are a team," he says. "That would be one of our greater accomplishments. All the rest, we could tie back to that."
Cattermole adds, "Our goal was to make a team, not just a group of individuals wearing the same leotards. We've accomplished that. These kids get along well; they like each other."
He points to Utah's Missy Marlowe, the freshman who was a 1988 Olympian. She came from the highly individual elite competition and fit right in; when she's asked about her accomplishments as a Ute, she credits her teammates. That creates good feelings on the Ute team, and Cattermole says the same kind of team attitude prevails at BYU.
"It's `I want to compete at nationals and regionals, but I want to compete with my team, not as an individual. I want to be with my team; that's what's really important,' " Cattermole says, quoting team members.
Jackman, he says, said recently she couldn't go back to the club program, where everything is done for oneself.
Typifying the Cougar team focus are Hutchings and Snell, who haven't been able to do all they want in their junior seasons because of injuries but who do their parts with uncomplaining vigor.
And then there's Williams, who Monday scored the first 38.0 all-around in BYU history, along with a school-record 9.8 on balance beam. (Jackman vaulted to 9.8 earlier in the meet, the first 9.8 in BYU history in any event.)
Williams started the season slowly and didn't even go all-around at the beginning, but she stuck with it and scored a career-best 37.8 before finally cracking 38.0 this week.
The Utah meet was a milestone for BYU, which set eight school records and eight personal bests while tying five other career bests.
"That meet got them psyched up, and they're all walking around with smiles on their faces," says Cattermole.
Still, he saw the Cougars lapse on floor exercise Monday, "trying to defend instead of being aggressive." Several Cougars spent this season finding out they're better than they thought, and confidence has been a factor. Monday's meet helped, especially when they ended strongly on balance beam.
Now, says Cattermole, "I'd like to see them get out at the HCAC and just sell it."