SALT LAKE CITY—Saturday’s meet in the Huntsman Center marks the first meet of the season for Southern Utah, BYU and No. 23 Boise State. It also marks the beginning of the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Championship, which is an alliance formed between the three teams, excluding Utah, as well as Denver and Utah State.
The alliance teams are currently filing paperwork to have the NCAA recognize them as a gymnastics conference next season, but in the meantime they’ll compete against each other several times throughout the year and have a championship meet hosted by BYU on March 22.
Along with being the first meet of the season for SUU, BYU and Boise State, it will be the first as well for host Utah. There’s not a better environment to get things started than before the Huntsman faithful, which is known for rooting for all great routines even if they are on the opposing side.
“Utah really has it down. They always have with Greg’s (Marsden) marketing and his focus on making meets fun and competitive,” said Southern Utah coach Scott Bauman. “Our gymnasts love to compete in the Huntsman Center, and it should be fun for the fans to see three in-state teams and a strong Boise State team.”
SOUTHERN UTAH: Bauman said his team is ready to go, and is especially happy to have senior Alyssa Click back in the lineup after she missed all but one meet last season after tearing her ACL. Click had won the WAC uneven bars title two seasons in a row and qualified on beam for the 2012 NCAA regionals. Bauman said Click is having difficulty adjusting to her new knee brace, but other than that she’s back to full strength.
The Thunderbirds will have two all-arounders going this weekend, and both are freshmen. Southern Utah hasn’t had a freshman go all-around in the first meet since former SUU All-American Elise Wheeler did in 2007. But Bauman believes Danielle Ramirez and Memory Shettles should do well, and will only get better along with the entire team as they add in tougher elements and gain experience throughout the season.
“We can’t train too hard too early because we need our gymnasts to peak when we need them to peak. This will show we are a formidable team during the season, and should hopefully help us stay healthy,” Bauman said.
BYU: The Cougars are also hoping to stay healthy this season. BYU returns junior Kaycee Gassaway, who redshirted last year due to an ankle injury. Junior Megan Bain and sophomore Makenzie Johnson return after solid all-around seasons, while seniors Haylee Rollins and Raquel Willman are also back.
Rollins led BYU on floor and bars, while Willman was the team leader on beam a year ago.
The Cougars have nine freshmen on their roster, the most of any of the Mountain Rim teams. Three of the newcomers are from Utah in Kendall Adams, Emily Cannon and Taylor Harward, and the Cougars lead all teams competing this weekend with six gymnasts from Utah. Overall there are 11 gymnasts from Utah on the rosters for SUU, Utah and BYU.
BYU was picked to finish fourth in the Mountain Rim Championship behind SUU at third, Denver at second and Boise State at first, while Utah State was selected fifth. BYU, Boise State and SUU all earned a berth to the NCAA regionals last year, while Utah advanced to the NCAA semifinals. The battle between Utah and BYU will contribute to the overall Deseret Duel standings, which Utah leads 23-6.
Melissa Yack has been a freelance contributor to the Deseret News for over 10 years.