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Kristin Murphy,
BYU's Abby Boden scores a 9.100 on the vault during a gymnastics meet against the University of Utah at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.
I tried to rally myself, and the other captains and I did the same with the team after bars. I’m proud of how we finished out the meet. —BYU gymnast Jill van Mierlo

SALT LAKE CITY — Brigham Young’s gymnastics team knows competing on the road at the Huntsman Center is always a challenge. Friday proved no different as BYU finished with a score of 194.275, while No. 5 Utah knocked out a 197.0 in both teams' opening meet.

The Cougars had a lot of bright spots on the night, which included overcoming a start that was far from what they envisioned for their opener.

“You have to hit 24 routines,” said BYU coach Guard Young. “It’s not even about scores right now, but about hitting.”

The coach has always preached sticking 24-24 routines so counting a fall on the first event did not leave a good taste in his mouth.

But the good news was, BYU hit its final three events to close out the meet. Its best effort of the night came from Kyleigh Greenlief on floor, as the senior recorded a 9.825. Fellow senior Mackenzie Douglas added a 9.8 on vault, while sophomore Shannon Hortman-Evans hit for a 9.8 on bars.

Jill van Mierlo added a 9.8 on beam and recorded solid routines on both vault and floor. The senior was one of those who fell on bars, in atypical fashion.

“I had a rocky start, maybe a lot of emotion with the start of my senior year and how loud this arena is,” said van Mierlo. “I tried to rally myself, and the other captains and I did the same with the team after bars. I’m proud of how we finished out the meet.”

The Cougars' best event was floor, where they recorded a 48.9 and didn’t count a score lower than 9.725. Beam also was a nice showing at 48.7.

“I really like our gymnastics — we have three E passes on floor and three 10.0 start value vaults,” said Young. “We are very deep on beam. We have three more girls we could put up there — it’s a beam battle for us right now.”

The Cougars have a long season ahead of them to work on sticks and to get their youthful squad more experience. Nearly two-thirds of BYU’s routines came from underclassmen in Friday’s meet.

Up next, BYU battles another ranked team when it hosts No. 11 California on Jan. 12.

Locals corner

Friday's meet featured 13 routines from local athletes. The highlight was Utah’s MaKenna Merrell-Giles, who tied for the all-around win with a 39.475. The Pleasant Grove native saved her best for last, hitting a 9.925 on floor.

Her former club teammate Hortman-Evans was BYU’s strongest local. The American Fork native finished third in the all-around despite a mess up on beam that left her starting value lower than normal.

While Hortman-Evans' favorite place to compete is in the Marriott Center, she admits coming up to the Huntsman Center is fun for locals.

“There’s really a unity across Utah,” said Hortman-Evans. “We have a gymnastics community that carries over from club to college and it was nice to have Utah’s fans cheering for all of the local gymnasts.”