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Wade Denniston, USU Athletic Media Relations
Utah State sophomore gymnast McKinley Pavicic competes on the beam during the Aggies' meet at BYU on Friday, March 9.

Utah State’s gymnastics team will conclude the home portion of its 2018 schedule when it welcomes Southern Utah to the friendly confines of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Friday, March 16, at 7 p.m.

The dual meet featuring the Aggies (7-9, 1-4 MRGC) and Thunderbirds (4-7, 1-5 MRGC) will be streamed live on the Mountain West Network as a USU Athletics Production. Additionally, live stats will be available online, and meet updates will be provided through the team’s various social media platforms.

“We have got to make the most of the opportunity on Friday and knock it out of the park,” said first-year head coach Amy Smith. “We need to focus on bringing the energy because this team functions really well when they do that and are enjoying what they are doing. We need to come out and do that, and do our job.”

Friday’s meet against Southern Utah is also Senior Day as Utah State will honor Miranda Hone, Melanie Oster and Keri Peel at the conclusion of the competition.

A variety of promotions surround Friday’s home finale, including #FlashbackFriday, the USU Greek Challenge, free Firehouse Pizza for the first 100 students in attendance and a free Utah State Athletics giveaway item for the first 100 fans shorter than our smallest gymnast (4-foot-9). This will also be the Aggies’ annual alumni meet.

Utah State enters Friday’s dual meet ranked 38th nationally and eighth in the North Central Region with a Regional Qualifying Score of 195.385. As a team, the Aggies are tied for 37th in the nation on vault (48.835) anf tied for 50th on bars (48.640), while ranking 29th on beam (48.975) and 31st on floor (49.105).

“Our high score right now is a 196.100,” Smith said. “If we can get anything above that, it will help us tremendously in putting us in position to move into that top 36. We want to parlay these next two meets into a third meet and get to compete at regionals. That’s the goal.”

Individually, freshman Autumn DeHarde is tied for 41st nationally on beam (9.875 RQS) and tied for 75th on floor (9.865). Junior Madison Ward is tied for 57th in the nation on floor (9.875) and tied for 99th on vault (9.820). Junior Emily Briones is tied for 85th on beam (9.840), freshman Mikaela Meyer is tied for 81st on vault (9.830) and freshman Faith Leary is tied for 87th on floor (9.860).

“We understand the situation we are in when it comes to the postseason,” Briones said. “We are at our absolute best when we are united and completely focused on each other. Our mindset is to have fun and do what we do every day in the gym and enjoy the times we spend together. The expectation for this team on Friday is to hit and get a solid 196 score.”

This is the second meeting between Utah State and Southern Utah this season. The first time around, the Aggies notched a 195.275-195.200 victory over the Thunderbirds on Feb. 12, in Cedar City.

Utah State had a gymnast place first on every event, including DeHarde and Briones tying for the top spot on beam with identical 9.875s. The Aggies closed the meet on beam, and those two gymnasts were the final competitors, helping the visitors hold on for the nail-biting victory. Ward captured a pair of titles on the night, including winning floor with a career-high 9.925. She also tied for first on bars with a 9.825. Meyer had a 9.825 on vault to tie for first on the event.

In a series that dates back to 1983, Utah State is 47-46 all-time against Southern Utah, including 25-13 at home, 16-18 on the road and 6-15 at a neutral site. The Aggies won the first 16 matchups against the Thunderbirds, while SUU enjoyed a stretch from 2006-2013 where it won 26 of 28 meetings, including 18 in a row.

SUU head coach Scott Bauman, who is in his 26th year at the helm of the Thunderbirds, is a 1990 graduate of Utah State. He cut his coaching teeth under the tutelage of former USU head coach Ray Corn, where he helped develop the Aggies into a national power. Bauman spent seven years as both an undergraduate and graduate assistant in Logan.

Bauman is married to the former Stephanie Green, who was a Utah State gymnast from 1988-91. During her time with the Aggies, Green set the then-school record on bars as a freshman in 1988 with a 9.750. In 1990, she posted a 9.800 on bars, tying the then-school record. Green, a member of the Utah State Gymnastics Wall of Fame, earned all-HCAC honors in 1990 and was a three-time academic all-HCAC honoree.

SUU assistant coach Jeff Richards spent five seasons at the helm of the Aggies and was named the 2011 NCAA Division I National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches North Central Region co-Head Coach of the Year. Richards’ stay in Logan spanned from 2009-13 and included 19 student-athletes advancing to the NCAA Regional Championships.

Utah State will head south to Cedar City, Utah, for the MRGC Championships on Saturday, March 24, at 6 p.m. The Aggies hosted the championships a year ago and placed second with a 196.100, their highest finish since joining the league.