No. 17 BYU gymnastics celebrated the 2018 season with the team’s highest national ranking in 13 years as Shannon Evans was named a second-team All-American, the first BYU All-American in 14 years.
“This season surpassed my expectations,” head coach Guard Young shared. “We’re not improving by tenths anymore; we’re growing by points. The effort of the girls combined with the support of donors, fans and the coaches all rolled into one to just have a magical season.”
BYU ended the season with a 196.010 average, a full point higher than last year’s 195.000 average, placing them as the No. 17 team in the nation. The Cougars finished the year ahead of Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference rivals Southern Utah and Utah State and barely behind fellow conference foe No. 16 Boise State.
Shannon Hortman Evans became BYU gymnastics’ first individual qualifier for nationals in 14 years after posting a 9.900 on bars at regionals. Evans then took seventh as a bars specialist at the NCAA National Championships with another 9.900, earning second-team All-American honors, BYU’s first All-American in 14 years.
“It was a real treat that Shannon was able to make it there,” Young reflected. “We’ve been close in the past, but to finally break through was not only big for Shannon but big for our program. BYU is coming back strong, and we’re earning a national presence now.”
This season marked the team’s ninth-straight regional appearance and the 27th time qualifying in the last 29 years. The Cougars finished in fourth place at regionals with a 196.300, the highest regional score in BYU gymnastics program history.
During the regional competition, Brogan Evanson, BYU’s floor and vault coach, was named one of three North Central Regional Assistant Coaches of the Year. She also earned the title of BYU Assistant Coach of the Year at the annual Y Awards and was in charge of coordinating the first Cougar Classic Junior Olympic meet for more than 500 local gymnasts.
During the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference Championships, Evans was named the MRGC All-Around Champion and an All-MRGC First-Team selection for bars as BYU took second place to No. 16 Boise State. Kyleigh Greenlief, Briana Pearson and Evans were each named event champions, as well as All-MRGC First-Team selections on floor for their 9.900 scores.
During the regular season, the Cougars competed against five top-20 teams: No. 5 Utah, No. 9 California, No. 11 Washington, No. 15 Denver and No. 16 Boise State. At home, BYU upset California, ranked 10th at the time, early in the season. The Cougars then posted a 196.625, the highest team score in 13 years, against then-ranked No. 10 Denver and Southern Utah.
The BYU gymnasts set program records on bars, beam and floor. The bars team earned a 49.425 during senior night, the second-highest bars score in program history. The beam team also set a program record with a 49.325 at Southern Utah, the fourth-highest beam score for BYU. The floor team shined at the MRGC Championships with a 49.400, the highest floor score since 2007.
Amidst the team records, nearly every gymnast who competed in the lineup set a career-high score. This led to at least one BYU gymnast being recognized with MRGC Specialist honors every week of the season. During the department's Y Awards, Angel Zhong earned the Cougar Club Memorial Award for academic achievement, and Abby Boden was named Walk-on of the Year.
The training facilities received an upgrade this year with a new camera system. The cameras allowed gymnasts to watch their practices on a delay, allowing for more effective feedback from coaches and the gymnasts themselves.
“We have seen huge dividends come from the new camera system,” Young shared. “We couldn’t have done that without donors and supporters of the team.”
Young shared his favorite moment of the season: the first-ever Kids Meet for local elementary and junior high school students. The meet set a home attendance record for BYU with more than 5,000 fans present.
“We wanted to copy what women’s basketball had done for a few years,” Young shared. “But to have 4,000 kids show up and pack the fieldhouse all the way from floor to ceiling was a sight I will take with me the rest of my life.”
Moving into the 2019 season, Young remains optimistic for the future of the program. While he still hopes for an appearance at nationals, the head coach looks forward to potentially earning the conference title along with having strong freshmen talent joining the roster.
“We’re going to host our conference meet at the end of the year at the Marriott Center,” Young commented. “Having a home crowd there supporting us will be key to earning a victory.”
As the Cougars train this summer for the 2019 season, the coaches have turned training over to the upperclassmen, providing strong leadership opportunities as the students build BYU gymnastics into their own program.
“It will be really fun to see what they come up with and how they implement it,” Young said. “I think if they have skin in the game that it will be an even better training environment when they’re invested in what they’re trying to get done.”