We are pleased with the progress we’ve made since the Christmas break, but we won’t have everyone going this Friday because of some injuries. —BYU gymnastics coach Brad Cattermole
PROVO — The BYU gymnastics team opens its season Friday when it hosts No. 6 Utah. The Cougars are excited for the meet, though they are battling the injury bug.
“We are pleased with the progress we’ve made since the Christmas break, but we won’t have everyone going this Friday because of some injuries,” said Brad Cattermole, who is in his 27th season as BYU’s coach.
The Cougars' biggest loss is Utah native Summer Raymond, who will miss the season with a hip injury. Raymond was one of BYU’s better beam workers.
Brittni Wilde is slowly returning from a broken hand, while Brielle Wilchuck is close to recovering from her injuries and Eliane Kulczyk is returning from minor knee surgery. Cattermole also expects Sin To to be back to full strength after an Achilles tear last season.
Mackenzie Johnson is expected to lead the Cougars, while freshman Jill Van Mierlo will also go all-around.
“Mackenzie looks even stronger than last season, and Jill is a good gymnast —inexperienced, but we think she’ll do well as the season progresses,” said Cattermole.
The coach is also excited about Emily Vidmar and KayCee Gassaway’s return. Gassaway was a standout for the Cougars on bars and vault last season. But she’s also been plagued by injuries throughout her career.
“KayCee is a great bars worker, is always good on vault and has improved her floor,” said Cattermole. "I would like to get her on beam, but we’ve got to manage how much her body can handle.”
Vidmar will lead off on bars and also go on floor and beam.
“We have Emily going first on bars, not because she’s our low scorer, but because we want to help the team be able to take a breath. She doesn’t miss in that event and has a much better dismount this season to set up the other gymnasts,” said Cattermole.
With things falling into place for the Cougars, Cattermole is also excited to officially be a part of the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference (MRGC), which was officially sanctioned by the NCAA for this year.
“We weren’t really sure what to expect with being in a conference,” said Cattermole. “But we’ve discovered having a conference championship meet will help us prepare for regionals.”
Along with BYU, the MRGC includes No. 19 Boise State, No. 20 Denver, Southern Utah and Utah State. Boise State was picked to win the league, with the Cougars selected to finish fourth. The MRGC teams will meet several times this season, leaving Utah as one of only a few non-league opponents BYU will face.
The Cougars enter Friday’s meet having lost 33 straight to Utah, with BYU’s last win coming in 1998 in Provo. Both Utah and BYU qualified for the NCAA regionals last season, but only Utah advanced to the NCAA championships.
“Utah’s always a great team, and it’s fun to open the season with them,” said Cattermole. “I just wish we were at full strength for Friday. We are just going to focus on hitting our routines this first meet and building on that the rest of the season.
"The nice thing is both teams get to finally play show and tell at the meet since we’ve only been practicing up to this point.”
Utah and BYU face off at 7 p.m. in the Marriott Center.