With the return of senior Kim Little and junior All-American Kelly Parkinson, the Cougars are looking forward to improve on their No. 11 national finish in 2000.
The 2000 season saw a big improvement from the injury-riddled '99 season. Last year, BYU finished second in the region with a qualifying score of 195.585 before going on to the eleventh place national finish.
The 2000 season also saw several records broken. On March 10 against Southern Utah, the Cougars set a new team record by scoring a 196.525. On that same night Kelly Parkinson set the new all-around record with a score of 39.550, and Kim Little set a record on the floor routine with a score of 9.950.
"I think this team is as good as any team we've had at BYU," said BYU head coach Brad Cattermole. "If we can stay away from injuries we'll do just fine. Because we have so few seniors and juniors, our drop-off is a little sharper this year than it has been in the past. But the top 6 or 7 gymnasts are as good as any we've had."
In addition to the return of Little and Parkinson, BYU also returns juniors Angie Hickman, Jennifer Thomas Lopez and Mindi Hilton, and sophomores Candace Cosgrave, Brooke Craig, Lindsay Lines, Missy Macmillan and Karen Nielsen Froerer. The Cougars also have some top new recruits in freshmen Brianna Ashe, Brogan Jacobsen, Kari Dye, Lindsay Emig and Veronica Gardner. Also, Division II transfer Trisha Driggs should be a big contributor. Driggs was the Division II national champion on beam at Texas Women's last year.
With the graduation of seniors Denice Pauga, Hilary Johnson, Leah Niepraschk, Jessica Taylor and Erin Johansen, this year's team will turn the senior leadership over Kim Little. Little participated in the all-around last year, with a high score of 39. According to Little, she will not be leading the team alone.
"They may look up to me because I'm the oldest," said Little. "But I'm not the only one who can lead the team. There are some sophomores and juniors who people can look up to and who can lead the team."
Little is expected to be an all-arounder this year, along with Parkinson, Lopez and Driggs. Cattermole expects the younger gymnasts to step up and follow the leadership of the older gymnasts.
Hickman also returns a lot of experience. She has been in the program since 1998, but is still a junior in eligibility because of an injury that ended her season as a freshman. Hickman competed on vault and floor last year, but Cattermole says she is coming along on the bars this year as well. Jennifer Thomas Lopez shares the responsibility of team captain with Little. Lopez, formerly Jennifer Thomas, competes in the all-around but has been fighting a shoulder injury. Mindi Hilton competed in bars and vault last year with a high of 9.9 on the bars. Unfortunately, she is also recovering from a shoulder injury after undergoing shoulder surgery this summer and is unsure about this year.
After a successful campaign in 2000, Cattermole expects to continue the success in 2001. With the athletic ability of this year's squad, Cattermole realizes their success depends a lot upon the mental toughness of the gymnasts.
"What it comes down to is, how mentally tough can we be at the end of the season when we have to hit?" said Cattermole.