It might be a new year, but things look the same in the landscape of the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference with Boise State expected to win its fifth straight title.
The Broncos are ranked 16th nationally, right where they finished the 2018 season.
BYU is ranked No. 24 in the preseason, Southern Utah is No. 32 and Utah State is No. 39.
The Broncos return five All-MRGC gymnasts from 2018, including two-time MRGC Gymnast of the Year Shani Remme.
While Boise State is the conference favorite, the Broncos can’t look past BYU, which continues to improve under coach Guard Young who is entering his fifth season with the program. BYU earned a national ranking of No. 17 last year, it’s highest mark in 13 years, and looks like a stronger team this season.
Junior Shannon Evans is the team’s leader on the floor after she had an impressive 2018 season in which she won the league all-around title and became the school’s first All-American in 14 years when she earned the honors on the uneven bars.
Seniors Natasha Marsh and Cheyenne Hill also had big seasons in 2018 and are expected to be leaders in 2019.
Schedule-wise, the Cougars will have their hands full starting with a season-opener against rival Utah, ranked fifth nationally.
Other ranked teams it will face are No. 9 California, Boise State, No. 23 Arizona State and No. 25 George Washington.
Down at Southern Utah, the Flippin’ Birds face a tall order schedule-wise as they finish with five straight road meets, including the league championships.
Among those opponents are visits to Nebraska and Washington.
Coach Scott Bauman believes such a schedule will let his team earn high road scores when it is peaking.
The Flippin’ Birds were an extremely young team last year, so the upside is a seasoned squad available for 2019.
Kamryn Bayer and Karen Gonzalez are the only seniors, but SUU has some talented young talent including juniors Autumn Jorgensen and Becky Rozsa-
Thompson and sophomores Molly Jozwiakowski and Hannah Nipp.
Many of those gymnasts helped the Flippin’ Birds to good showings on the bars and floor last year so those events should be strong again this season.
In Logan, the Aggies hope 2019 can continue to bring improvement under second-year coach Amy Smith. The UCLA graduate has 13 returners and seven newcomers with which to work.
USU finished third in the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Championships but hope to be more of a player this season as several gymnasts have returned in better form than they were in 2018.
Leading the way is sophomore Leighton Varnadore, who is expected to compete in the all-around.
Smith noted Varnadore put in some extra work during the offseason and it showed in the team’s intrasquad with Varnadore turning in a solid effort, including a 9.85 on the floor.
The floor looks to be one of the Aggies’ strength with sophomore Autumn DeHarde, senior Madison Ward-Sessions and freshman Maddie Straker earning 9.8s.
The Aggies also look solid on the uneven bars with Ward-Sessions and junior MaKayla Bullitt setting the pace.
The Aggies have a challenging schedule to get them ready for the post-season with a March 16 meet at UCLA on the schedule in addition to league opponents.
Season opener: Jan. 12 at Pittsburgh
National ranking: No. 39
Outlook: The Aggies return 13 gymnasts from a team that went 9-11 overall last year and have seven newcomers.
What is new: Sophomore Leighton Varnadore has been impressive in the preseason and could be in for a breakout year as an all-around competitor.
Season opener: Jan. 11 vs. Utah
National ranking: No. 24
Outlook: Junior Shannon Evans headlines a team coach Guard Young calls his strongest and deepest squad.
What is new: There are a whole lot of newcomers for the Cougars with 11 freshmen on the roster.
Season opener: Jan. 7 vs. University of New Hampshire
National ranking: No. 32
Outlook: The Flippin’ Birds are again a young squad, but they do have some experience to build on their 2018 season in which they finished sixth at the NCAA regionals.
What is new: Seven freshmen join the Flippin’ Birds, including four from Utah (Emma Wissman, Salt Lake City), Stephanie Tervort (Spanish Fork), Karley McClain (South Jordan) and Mayson Bentley (St. George).