High tension filled the Marriott Center on Jan. 12 when BYU women’s gymnastics trailed 196.475 to the University of Utah’s 197.250. Although BYU ultimately lost by 0.775, 196.475 is the highest season-opening score ever recorded by the Cougars.
Utah headed into the meet with confidence after beating No. 20 Penn State on Jan. 5. However, BYU’s season-opening score of 196.475 against the No. 3 Red Rocks topped Penn State’s season-opening score of 194.450 also against the Red Rocks.
“We were in this building two years ago, and I remember that it wasn’t a great performance, and I felt that the girls shrunk when they got on the stage,” BYU head coach Guard Young said. “That’s what I challenged them tonight, to elevate their game and to believe that they belong out there, and I think we showed everyone in the arena that we belong out there.”
In rotation one, Utah’s Kim Tessen went first on the bars but ended her routine with a fall. However, Tessen’s fall in no way foreshadowed how Utah would perform the remainder of the meet. Utah managed to top BYU in each event with the exception of the balance beam.
Heading into rotation three, Utah was in the lead by 0.53. BYU gave Utah little room for error when pulling off scores ranging from 9.8 to 9.9 on the beam. Not only was BYU freshman Abbey Miner visibly overcome with emotion when receiving a 9.9 on her first college beam routine, but Young also couldn’t hold back his emotion.
“We’ve had a plan for a long time on beam,” BYU junior and team captain Shannon Evans said. “We sit down at practice and we go one by one saying exactly what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it and what it’s going to look like. And that’s exactly what we did tonight.”
While BYU snagged No. 1 on beam with a score of 49.325, the Red Rocks pulled through with a score of 49.200 on beam in the final rotation.
“There was a calmness over on beam,” Utah’s co-head coach Tom Farden said. “I think we got off to a good start and they all built on each other, but I knew BYU was going to fight through the night.”
In the final rotation, the Cougars’ personalities shined during their floor routines, giving the crowd a small taste of each athlete’s passions.
“I have a new floor routine with music that I’m really excited about,” BYU junior Natasha Marsh said. “It showcases my personality and my interests. It’s Michael Bublé and he’s my favorite singer.”
In the end, minor errors on the floor made it impossible for the Cougars to catch up to the Red Rocks. Specifically, an over-rotation toward the end of Marsh’s routine widened the gap between the rivalries. For BYU, this was the team’s only fall of the night, proving that Young’s strategy to focus on the basics of gymnastics is paying off.
“That was a good mistake,” Young said. “There are bad hits and good falls and that was a good fall. That was the best routine that I’ve seen her do in four years and to go big and to just over-rotate like that, I’ll take that all day long.”
Utah’s two-time NCAA champion junior MyKayla Skinner won the all-around with a score of 39.600. However, Miner’s balance beam performance earned her the No. 1 spot for BYU with a score of 9.900.
Trailing close to a No. 3 team, Evans said she was nothing but proud of her team.
“We’re just as good as gymnasts and we’ve got the skills,” Evans said. “We did us. Those weren’t our best lineups and we’ve got better in us.”
Coming up, BYU will face Utah State on Jan. 18 at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan.