Utah State’s gymnastics team opened its 2017 home campaign in thrilling fashion on Friday night as the Aggies swept a tri-meet against No. 16 North Carolina State and Bowling Green in front of 1,819 fans at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
After recording a 191.600 in its season opener at the Arizona tri-meet last weekend, Utah State was nearly four points better this time around, notching a 195.400 to place first. The Wolfpack came in second with a 193.900, while the Falcons were third with a 193.275.
“We absolutely put that kind of standard on them and they trained in a way that they came out and they were hungry for it, and they were capable of it,” said fourth-year head coach Nadalie Walsh. “This isn’t even their best yet, so I’m just really excited because there are so many little things that they can do better. I’m proud of them for leaving the past behind them and just going out and doing their gymnastics the way that they can, and representing our school the way we want to.”
For the second-consecutive week, sophomore Madison Ward won the floor title with a season-high-tying 9.825. Fellow sophomore Emily Briones gave the Aggies (3-1) two event titles as she captured the beam crown with a career-high-tying 9.875 – just a week removed from tallying a 9.050 in the season opener.
“It was really satisfying to hit tonight,” Briones said. “Every single person on the team had hit before me, and then we just built off of each other, so it felt really good.”
Utah State, which led after every rotation, recorded 10 top-five finishes on the night, including two apiece by senior Bailey McIntire (tied for second on bars and tied for third on beam) and freshman Elle Golison (tied for second on floor and tied for third on beam).
“We all definitely pulled together at practice this week,” Briones said. “We knew we had to come together as a team and we definitely had a purpose every time we trained in practice this past week, and we just did what we did in practice tonight.”
Utah State began the meet on vault and recorded a season-high 48.775. Senior Katie Brown led the way with a career-high-tying 9.825 to tie for third, while Ward also matched her career best with a 9.775. Junior Miranda Hone recorded a career-high 9.750 on the event, while three freshmen set their career-best marks in Golison (9.750), Jazmyn Estrella (9.675) and MaKayla Bullitt (9.650).
“It was awesome to come back from Arizona and prove that we are a better team than what we showed there,” Hone said. “It was great to get out here and perform for them.”
In the second rotation, Utah State moved to bars, where McIntire notched a season-high score of 9.825 to finish second and help the Aggies record a season-best 48.650. Hone punctuated USU’s showing on bars with a career-best 9.775, while Estrella also had a personal best of 9.625.
“I was really nervous at first for vault, but going out there and just doing what I know how to do is really fun,” Hone said. “Being put in the bars lineup at the last minute was a little nerve-racking, but I just went out there and did what I know how to do.”
Moving to beam in the third rotation, three more Aggies either tied or set their personal bests, including Briones’ 9.875. Golison tied for third with a career-best 9.825, and senior Keri Peel placed fifth with a career-high-tying 9.800. Utah State recorded a team score of 49.075, which is tied for 12th all-time in school history.
The Aggies closed the meet on floor, where Ward placed first with her 9.825 and Golison tied for second with a career-best 9.800 as Utah State recorded a 48.900. Bullitt and senior Hayley Sanzotti tied for fourth with 9.775s – for Bullitt, it was a personal best.
The Aggies improved to 2-2 all-time against the Wolfpack (1-2) and 2-0 all-time against the Falcons (0-5). Furthermore, Utah State is now just two victories shy of recording its 500th win.
This was the lone January home meet for Utah State, which closes the month with a pair of dual meets at Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference rival BYU and at New Hampshire, respectively. The Aggies and Cougars square off in Provo on Friday, Jan. 20, at 7 p.m.