Utah State's gymnastics team opened the 2019 season at a quad meet hosted by Pittsburgh, falling to No. 22 West Virginia and host Pitt while defeating Eastern Michigan, at the Fitzgerald Field House on Saturday afternoon.
The Mountaineers won the meet with a 195.500, the Panthers finished second with a 194.750 the Aggies recorded a 194.600, the highest season-opening score in program history, and the Eagles scored a 192.700.
"We're really excited to get the highest season-opening score in the program," said second-year head coach Amy Smith. "It wasn't a pretty meet for us. We had to fight throughout the meet for the outcome we got, but it's a great starting point to build off of. This was also one of the goals we had at the beginning of the preseason, so we were thrilled to accomplish this tonight."
West Virginia (4-2) placed first with a 195.500, anchored by the top-two spots in the vault from Kirah Koshinski and Jacquie Tan. Host Pittsburgh (2-1) took second with a 194.750, while Eastern Michigan (0-3) placed fourth at 192.700.
Madison Ward-Sessions garnered two event titles for Utah State, bringing her career total to 24. The senior from Rexburg, Idaho, won the bar title with a 9.825, and she tied two others from West Virginia to share the floor title with a 9.900.
"I was a little nervous, but I was able to calm down, focus and make my routines," said Ward-Sessions. "I was happy with how I finished and was happy with how well the team did."
Utah State began the afternoon with a 48.525 on bars, aided by Ward-Sessions' 9.825. Junior MaKayla Bullitt had a 9.775 to tie for fifth. Junior Madi Tueller, who hasn't competed in three years, scored a 9.600.
"Madi Tueller stepped up on bars and being our anchor was big," said Smith. "For her to step up and get the job done in that kind of pressure is huge."
In the second rotation, the Aggies recorded a 48.350 on beam. Sophomore Autumn DeHarde finished second with a 9.775, while sophomore Leighton Varnadore tied for fourth with a 9.700.
With her 9.900, Ward-Sessions helped Utah State record a team score of 48.875 on floor. DeHarde was the next top Aggie finisher as she earned a score of 9.825 to tie for sixth.Comment on this story
"It's super exciting to break the school record because that's been a goal of ours," said Ward-Sessions. "We have a lot more goals that I know we're able to accomplish, too. I'm super proud of the team, and we worked super hard this preseason."
Utah State closed out the meet on vault with a 48.850 as Leighton Varnadore had a career-best 9.800, while Logan Varnadore made her debut on the vault with a 9.725.
"We're just going to go back and work on the little details to put more tenths into our team score next weekend," said Smith. "I'm just so proud of this team."
Utah State is set to open the home portion of its schedule on Friday, Jan. 18, against BYU at 7 p.m., at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.