Though only three gymnasts from BYU competed at the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Regional Championship in Salt Lake City on Saturday, they represented the school well as they competed against gymnasts from nine other schools.
Sophomore Raquel Willman competed in the all-around as an at-large competitor and seniors Krysten Koval and Natalie Eyre-Pickard performed as individual event specialists. Pickard competed on vault and bars and Koval on floor. They competed against gymnasts from Utah, Arizona State, Nebraska, Utah State, Iowa State, Air Force, Southern Utah, Minnesota and San Jose State.
Head coach Brad Cattermole has been with BYU now for 25 years and was proud of what the girls accomplished at regionals, even though none of them advanced to compete at nationals. Before the meet, Koval and Willman both said competing without their team would be hard and Cattermole knew that as well.
“It’s tougher to do this meet without a team. The girls don’t see [gymnastics] as an individual sport, they see it as a team sport and you want to be here with your team,” Cattermole said. “They put it all out there and tried as hard as they could.”
In the all-around, Willman came in 15th place overall with her score of 38.200. Her best event of the night was vault which gave her a score of 9.7250. Willman also put up a good performance on bars, scoring a 9.700, an event in which she struggled at the end of the regular season. Willman ended in a 6-way tie for 16th place on bars, which was her best finish of the night overall. And though she started out strong on floor, a stumble cost her big points as she only managed a 9.100 in the event.
Koval’s sole performance of the night was on floor. In the last regular meet of the 2012 season, against Boise State, Koval earned a career high score of 9.900 in the event. At regionals, Koval scored a 9.750, which put her in 27th place out of 42 competitors.
BYU’s strongest performer of the night was Pickard, who competed on both vault and bars. On vault, Pickard scored a solid 9.800, which put her in an eight-way tie for 11th place out of 41 overall competitors. She was not as consistent on the uneven bars, however. Pickard scored a 9.650 on bars, tying with three others for 25th place overall.
Willman, Pickard and Koval all wore pink leotards in honor of their former trainer, Gaye Merill, who died of breast cancer two summers ago. As it was their last meet ever as Cougars, Pickard and Koval were especially excited to wear them.
“We wanted to dedicate our last meet to her because Gaye had an amazing influence on both of our gymnastics careers,” Koval said. “We both went through surgery and Gaye was there to rehabilitate us back to better than we had ever been and so we really wanted her out there with us. She loved every single one of us.”
In each of the six regionals, six teams competed overall and the top two teams from each regional advance to the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championship. In the Salt Lake City regional, Utah and Nebraska moved on to nationals with overall team scores of 196.825 and 196.520 respectively. The only individuals who advanced to nationals from the Salt Lake regional are Dusti Russell and Kayla Schlecta of Minnesota. The other teams competing at the NCAA Championship are Florida, Ohio State, UCLA, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Stanford, Georgia, Oregon State, Alabama and Louisiana State. The national competition is April 20-22 in Duluth, Ga.