While the Utes are doing battle in the Pac-12, the state’s other gymnastics teams, Utah State, Southern Utah and Brigham Young, will try to unseat Boise State as the top team in the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference.
Doing so could be a very difficult task considering the Broncos, who have won the title three years in a row, were picked to win it again earning nine points in the coaches’ poll.
The Broncos, who were picked No. 13 in the national preseason poll, return eight all-MRGC gymnasts, including Gymnast of the Year Shani Remme.
While unseating the Broncos from the top spot will be a challenge, SUU looks like a team that could be up for the task. SUU was picked to finish second in the conference with seven points and No. 24 in the national poll.
Season opener • Friday at Utah, 7 p.m.
Conference ranking • No. 3
National ranking • No. 34
Outlook • With coach Guard Young in his third season, the Cougars hope tobuild on their results in 2017, when they earned their highest regionalscore in 12 seasons (195.025) with a fifth place finish. MackenzieDouglas, the conference co-vault champion, is one of four returningseniors.
The Thunderbirds return three seniors in Karen Gonzalez, Amber Heltemesand, Kirsten Yee, in addition to sophomore Becky Rozsa, who earned second-team all-MRGC honors on the uneven bars last year and Autumn Jorgensen, who was a first-team all-MRGC on the floor.
In addition to a veteran team, SUU will have some home floor advantage since it is hosting the conference championship on March 24.
Utah State and BYU tied for third in the conference poll with four points apiece and ranked No. 32 and No. 34, respectively, in the national poll.
The Aggies have a new face of their program as Amy Smith enters her first season as head coach. Smith, who competed for UCLA in the 1990s,replaces Nadalie Walsh, who left the Aggies after four seasons to become the head coach at Illinois.
UTAH STATE UPDATE
Season opener • Jan. 13 at Bowling Green
National ranking • No. 32
Conference ranking • No. 3
Outlook • USU has several gymnasts returning but have nine newcomers to workinto the program. That inexperience, plus a new coach (Amy Smith), could mean theAggies will have to find their footing early in the season.
Under Walsh, the Aggies reached the NCAA regionals four years in a row,a streak the Aggies hadn’t accomplished since qualifying for the regionals 17 seasons in a row from 1986-2002.
Smith might be a new coach to the program, but she seems to have the credentials that would help the Aggies continue their upswing.
Since graduating from UCLA in 2001, Smith has assisted at Florida (2003-06), Missouri (2007-11), UCLA (2011-12) and North Carolina, where she spent the last five seasons and was promoted to associate head coach in 2014.
The Aggies return seven letter winners from 2017, but have a big rookie class to with nine newcomers.
SOUTHERN UTAH UPDATE
Season opener • Jan. 11 at Boise State
National ranking • No. 24
Conference ranking • No. 2
Outlook • The challenge for the Thunderbirds in 2018 will be matching theirefforts in 2017, when SUU placed fourth at the NCAA regionals, betteredthe school record for scoring three times and set several other programmilestones. The Thunderbirds lose three key seniors, including StacieWebb who earned the program’s first 10.0 last year.
BYU returns four all-MRGC gymnasts in sophomores Angel Zhong and Shannon Evans and seniors Jill van Mierlo and Mckenzie Douglas.
Evans was the MRGC Freshman of the Year in 2017 while Douglas is the defending conference champion on vault. But the Cougars won’t have to lean on experience entirely, if the results of the team preview are any indication.
BYU has 24 gymnasts on its roster as coach Guard Young continues to build the program to his liking in his third season.
Some of the new talent he is bringing aboard made a good impression in December with freshman Abbey Miner tying Brianna Pearson for top honors on the floor and freshmen Abby Boden and Jordan Danbury earning the top scores on beam.