(Photo by BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah — The BYU gymnastics team looks to build on last season’s sixth-place regional finish with 10 returning gymnasts, nine incoming freshmen and one redshirt freshman.
“I really try to instill this in the team: it’s not about individual efforts, it’s about team success,” BYU gymnastics head coach Guard Young said. “We always focus on hits and sticks. If the team goes out and performs well and succeeds, then the individuals on that team will have success.”
Entering his second year at the helm of the program, Young feels that he, his staff and the gymnasts have learned a lot from one other.
“I think we understand each other a lot more,” Young said. “We’ve had a great preseason thus far. I’m really excited about seeing how these routines come together for the girls.”
BYU’s 12-meet schedule features five teams who finished the 2016 season in the top 25 nationally, including Utah, Minnesota, Boise State, Arizona and Iowa. It includes competitions against two Pac-12 opponents and three members of the Big Ten Conference. The Cougars will host five meets, and the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference championship will take place at Utah State on March 18.
The loss of three seniors in Makenzie Johnson Halliday, Mikaela Jones and Emily Vidmar will be felt especially on beam, but BYU expects great things from its returners and newcomers. The Cougars return one senior, five juniors and four sophomores while eight incoming freshmen and one redshirt freshman join the team.
Team captain Brittni Hawes considers unity to be the team’s key to success.
“If we can be unified and believe in each other, nothing is stopping us,” Hawes said. “I really want us to be able to go out there and show this world what BYU gymnastics is capable of.”
Young believes Hawes to be a top bars contender nationally because of her work ethic.
“Brittni has worked really hard this summer to break some bad habits and do it technically correct,” Young said. “Now she’s putting herself in a better position to stick her dismount and go a little bit higher.”
Last year, Hawes competed in all 12 meets on bars and tied for the team’s highest bars score with a career-high 9.900 on the event.
Junior Mackenzie Douglas will also be a strong contributor after receiving 2016 All-MRGC Second Team honors on vault, bars and floor. She earned career-highs of 9.900 on floor and 9.875 on both vault and bars.
“Mackenzie Douglas is ready to shine,” Young said. “She had a phenomenal summer, stayed healthy, learned some big moves on floor and has a good year of a new vault under her. The confidence is going to be there on that vault.”
Sophomore Natasha Trejo will be a three-event starter for the Cougars and is known for her consistency. She scored season-high scores of 9.825 on floor, 9.800 on bars and 9.775 on beam in 2016.
“I see a lot of me in her, where maybe she doesn’t do the biggest or highest gymnastics, but she’s really consistent,” Young said. “And you need those players on your team.”
He feels redshirt sophomore Jessie Westergard could potentially break the starting lineup in three events after a “phenomenal summer.”
“What I like about Jessie is how technical and clean she is,” Young said. “You can tell she’s had good, basic training under her. Everything she does is technically done correctly. She hits her handstands. She has good lines and good toe points.”
Young foresees incoming freshman Shannon Hortman competing as an all-arounder and described her as “one of our best gymnasts on every event.”
BYU opens its season with an away meet at No. 23 Penn State Saturday, Jan. 7, before hosting in-state rival No. 6 Utah on Friday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m., at the Marriott Center.
The team will hold a Blue and White Intrasquad meet on Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse. General admission will be free to the public.