BYU gymnasts take on No. 3 Utah

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They no longer share a conference but tensions will still run high as BYU’s women’s gymnastics team heads up to Salt Lake City to take on powerhouse Utah on Friday.

The Cougars face perhaps their toughest competition of the season with this meet against the Utes. Now ranked No. 3 in the nation, Utah only fell from its No. 2 ranking because of a bye week.

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BYU gymnast Madeleine Johnson competes on uneven bars during BYU's meet against rival Utah last year
With this being BYU’s third road meet of the season, senior Krysten Koval especially knows what is at stake against Utah in this portion of the Deseret Duel.

“We’ve been excited for this meet since June and July,” Koval said. “We’ve had a countdown in the gym.”

There is plenty of gymnastics-specific history between the teams as well. At the end of last season, the Cougars lost to the Utes in a close meet, 196.7-195.8. Utah is 41-0 against the Cougars when competing in Salt Lake City; Utah also has a 29-meet winning streak against BYU that has been intact since 1998.

With regard to competing in the Huntsman Center, Koval called it one of the team’s favorite places to compete because of the history between the two schools; the tension can still be felt, which makes for a great night.

Senior captain Natalie Pickard agrees with Koval and is excited to compete in Salt Lake because there are always a lot of people watching.

“At home and around Utah you have fans and friends,” Pickard said. “The best part is showing them how much you’ve worked and showing what the team can do.”

Koval also feels additional, basically unspoken, pressure because she is a senior and has competed on balance beam all four years she has been at BYU.

“I want to do [well] for my team. I need to show them what I’m capable of,” Koval said. “Just the fact that it is my last year, I want to go out on a high note. I want to leave behind a legacy.”

Pickard’s goal, besides having fun, is to have the best season she could possibly have because she wants “to go out with a bang.”

Friday’s meet at the Huntsman Center is also the annual “Short People Appreciation Night,” according to a University of Utah news release. Anyone five feet and shorter can receive a free upper-bowl ticket to the meet.

The women’s gymnastics team returns to the Smith Fieldhouse for its home opener against Boise State on Feb. 4.

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