LOGAN — Her final appearance at home was not going as planned for Madison Ward-Sessions. Nerves were getting the best of her and it showed on vault and beam, where she scored a 9.250 and 9.175, respectively.
“Last week was terrible for me because I was so nervous with it being Senior Night and my last time competing in the (Dee Glen Smith) Spectrum,” Ward-Sessions said. “I had so many emotions and it was hard for me to slow down and do what I usually do in competitions.”
After her disappointment on beam last Friday night against Southern Utah, Ward-Sessions quickly put that behind her as she prepared to perform on floor for the final time at the Spectrum.
“I was really frustrated once I fell on beam,” Ward-Sessions said. “Once I finished my routine, I just needed to take a second and tell myself to relax. Before I performed on floor, I was visualizing a lot because I wanted to do well. Once I saluted and got on floor, I told myself to let me be Madi, and do my thing.”
That is exactly what she did.
Ward-Sessions nearly became the first gymnast in Utah State history to record a perfect 10. Once the dust finally settled on her floor routine against the Thunderbirds, the native of Rexburg, Idaho, was rewarded with a school-record-tying 9.975 — one judge flashed a 10 and the other gave Ward-Sessions a 9.950.
The 9.975 tied a 20-year-old record originally set by Christy Denson in 1999.
“At the beginning of the meet, Madi didn’t quite settle in, but she fought throughout the meet,” said second-year Utah State head coach Amy Smith. “She got a handle on it on the last event and it’s a good thing she did because that was phenomenal. In my opinion, it should’ve been a 10 because it was absolutely gorgeous. I am really proud of her for battling through and finishing on such a high note.”
Ward-Sessions sure was thrilled.
“That was really exciting for me and I never thought I would ever get a 10,” she said. “After the meet, I kept telling my husband, Tanner, ‘Oh my gosh, I got a 10 tonight.’ That was so cool because I remember our previous coach, Nadalie (Walsh), and Amy, telling me, ‘You can be one of the first gymnasts to get a 10 at Utah State,’ and there I was. One judge gave it to me and I am excited for these next couple of weeks at UCLA and the MRGC Championships.”
With her floor win last Friday against Southern Utah, Ward-Sessions set the school record for most career titles on the event with 20. The previous mark of 19 was held by Michelle Pohl (1983-86).
Throughout the season, Ward-Sessions has been marking off each floor title as she inched closer to the record.
“I remember talking about it last year and then this year, I had been talking with Tanner about it all the time,” Ward-Sessions said. “I would tell him, ‘I just have to win floor this weekend, and then next weekend.’ To finally accomplish it and check it off, I was just super excited. There is a lot more to come, even though we only have a few more meets left.”
Ward-Sessions has a total of 36 career titles to her name — 20 on floor, five on vault, five on bars, four in the all-around and two on beam — which ranks sixth all-time in school history. She is just two titles shy of tying Julie Ryan (1986-88, 1991) for No. 5 on the list.
Ward-Sessions’ name is etched all over the Utah State record books.
Earlier this season, she won the all-around at the West Virginia quad meet with a personal-best 39.525 — the highest by any Aggie in 16 years. The score is tied for second all-time in school history, along with Nicole Kilpatrick (2003) and Christy Denson (2000).
Ward-Sessions’ floor averages of 9.871 in 2017 and 9.846 in 2018 rank second and fifth all-time in school history. Her vault average of 9.808 set last season ranks fourth all-time in school history and her 2017 bars average of 9.764 ranks 13th. She is currently averaging 9.900 on floor this season, which is on pace to break the current school record of 9.877 set by Liesel Kohler in 2004.
“What an incredible senior run Madi has had,” Smith said. “What has impressed me about Madi is her work ethic, and it’s even gotten better as the season has gone on because I think she is realizing what she can really do, which is awesome to see in the gym — her standards just get higher and higher.
“My favorite memory with Madi is her coming to me in December and telling me that she doesn’t want to do beam anymore and me telling her, ‘No. Your team needs you and you don’t realize how good you’ve gotten on this event.' I don’t think she liked me too much after that for a few weeks, but it was completely worth it to see her hit that 9.9 beam at WVU and see her face light up afterward. We had a little moment after that meet where she thanked me for not letting her give up on beam.”
On the season, Ward-Sessions has a Regional Qualifying Score of 9.915, which leads the MRGC and is tied for 17th nationally.
Ward-Sessions’ 9.900 on beam is tied for 15th all-time in school history. She also owns two of the top floor scores in school history at an NCAA Regional Championships meet with a 9.925 (Minneapolis, April 7, 2018) and 9.825 (Seattle, April 1, 2017), which rank first and tied for sixth all-time on the event at a regional meet.
“My freshman year coming in, I couldn’t train or do anything because of my foot surgery,” Ward-Sessions recalled. “That wasn’t so fun to come in on, but every year, I have gotten a little bit better and more confident. Each set of coaches have helped me differently and helped me become a better gymnast throughout these past four years. It has been really cool to see my progress, and as I was watching some of my club videos, I was like, ‘How did I even get recruited?’ I was so sloppy. I feel like I have gotten a lot better over the past four years.”
She sure has.
Ward-Sessions was tabbed the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference Floor Specialist of the Year in 2017, along with earning first-team all-league honors on vault twice and floor twice. She is also a three-time academic all-MRGC honoree.
Ward-Sessions spent her club days at Idaho Elite Gymnastics in Idaho Falls, Idaho. She was recruited by both BYU and Utah State and took visits to both places. In the end, Utah State won out and she does not regret her decision one bit.
“I am really grateful for the opportunity to be at Utah State, and all of the relationships and friendships I’ve made here,” Ward-Sessions said. “I appreciate all of the support from the community, from other student-athletes and students in general. I am also grateful to everyone back home who is still supporting me and who still ask me how I am doing in gymnastics. I’m grateful for everyone who has helped me get to where I am today.”
The daughter of Chad and Lori Ward is on track to graduate this spring with a degree in exercise science. Outside of the gym and school, she enjoys spending time with her husband, baking and watching shows.
When she was younger, Ward-Sessions admits she was not an angel.
“I am actually super loud with my family,” she said. “Most people haven’t really seen that side of me, just because of gymnastics and trying to focus. When I’m with my siblings, I can be so loud. I was a terrible child, loud and so mean to my siblings. My sister was trying to pull her tooth out — I was probably 9 years old – and I took her arms and was holding them down so she couldn’t move and my dad could pull her tooth. I was a very terrible and mischievous child.”Comment on this story
A child that blossomed into one of the greatest gymnasts in the history of Utah State’s program.
“Madi’s work ethic is amazing,” Smith said. “Everyone on the team looks up to her in that regard. She has set the standard in that area and I have loved watching her up her own standards as the year has gone on. It has been so cool to watch her become so confident and buy into what all of us have seen in her all along. What an incredible year and career she has had, and I can’t wait to see how it ends up.”