(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Coming off its best season in the last four years earning a national ranking as high as No. 6, the BYU women's gymnastics team is excited to begin another great season.
Though the team is young with only three returning seniors, the Cougars hope to see similar results.
"We all work as hard as we can in the gym so we can do the best that we can," said head coach Brad Cattermole. "Our sophomore class is really strong and the seniors are a good, solid group."
Last year Jaime Mabray matched the Cougars' record on vault with a perfect 10.0. This year Mabray will lead the team along with seniors Lena Johnson and Kirsten Pauga. Pauga holds a BYU top-10 score on vault and will be a great support to the team. Junior Lisa Willis is a two-time Junior Olympic National Qualifier.
Willis and Mabray are the team captains for the 2005 season and are considered great team leaders.
"They have different styles. Lisa is kind of a workaholic and Jamie is more compassionate," Cattermole said. "As captains they bring the team closer together."
Also leading the way are twins Marie-Helene and Genevieve Claveau. Though this is only their second year competing at the collegiate level, the Claveaus have a stellar season behind them that has set them up for another great year. Marie-Helene holds top-10 scores on vault, beam, and floor.
"Genevieve has gone from one event to three this year, and Marie-Helene is looking really good," Cattermole said.
Coach Brad Cattermole is beginning his 18th season at the helm of the Cougars. Beside Cattermole are two assistant coaches; his wife Dawn, and Shauna Mertz. They are expecting another great year from the gymnasts.
Joining the Cougars this year are six new freshmen who are expected to add strength to the team. The new gymnasts include Alethea Boon, Auckland, New Zealand; Kylee Draper, Payson, Utah; Cassandra Myers, Sandy, Utah; Aimee Walker Pond, Valley Village, Calif.; Lauren Steffen, Cincinnnati, Ohio; and Ashley Vonasek, El Dorado, Calif.
All five gymnasts have strong gymnastic backgrounds and were all level 10 competitors before coming to BYU. Boon, who is a World Championship competitor, is a great addition to the team.
Draper was a second-place state finisher and will be a great addition to vault and beam. With a state championship on vault, Steffen will also be an asset.
This year the team will miss Trisha Ashton, Brogan Jacobsen, Kari Lords and Megan Pessoa. Kari Lords had a record-breaking year with top-10 scores in all four events and in all-around. Lords was the only BYU gymnast to qualify for the 2004 Nationals after the team finished third at Regionals.
As for the competition, BYU is ranked above all but two teams. The Cougars will face stiff competition from No. 6 Utah and No. 13 Boise State as well as in-state rivals Utah State and Southern Utah. The Cougars will begin the season with a trip to Cancun, Mexico and will be home at Provo against SUU on January 15.
That trip to Mexico will be the first since the summer of 1984 when the team went to Australia and New Zealand. This will be the team's second trip to Mexico, as it went in the summer of 1976 and traveled with BYU men's gymnastics team.