Kacie Capra highlights a talented young Cougar squad looking to return to Nationals. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Coming off a trip to nationals and an 11th place national finish, the No. 19 ranked BYU women's gymnastics team is ready to start another season. Though only returning one senior from last year's squad, they look to build from the strong finish and make a return trip to nationals.
"It's hard not having a lot of upperclassmen," Coach Brad Cattermole said about the makeup of his team. "But we've got a great group of girls that really work hard."
Last season Kacie Capra emerged as one of the Cougars' top gymnasts, finishing 8th in the individual all-around at regionals. This year Capra will be expected to help lead a young team. She will not be alone though. A strong sophomore class led by Dayna Smart, Alethea Boon and Aimee Walker Pond will provide depth and balanced scoring. Sophmores Kylee Draper and Cassie Myers and junior Sierra Jacobs will also contribute. Returning senior Jennifer Matthews will help provide experience and leadership.
Junior Lisa Willis is returning after redshirting last season due to chronic fatigue. If she remains healthy, she will provide valuable scoring and experience for the Cougars.
"Right now she's about seventy-five percent," Cattermole said. "If she can get healthy she's a very talented gymnast. She was just over-trained (last season). The problem with chronic fatigue is it takes just as long to get out of it as you are in it." Contribution aside though, Willis' work ethic alone will be a welcome return in setting an example for the rest of the team.
Capra and fellow junior Kandis Kelly will be the team captains for the 2006 season, as elected by the rest of the team.
"Kandis just brings it everyday," Cattermole said about Kelly. "They're both hard workers. They will say something when it needs to be said. They care about the team and have earned the respect of their teammates."
Cattermole is beginning his 18th season at the helm of BYU gymnastics. As in previous seasons, his two assistants, wife Dawn and Shawna Mertz, return as well. Dawn's expertise in the floor exercise and Mertz' coaching on the beam will aid Cattermole this coming season.
Joining the Cougars this season are four freshmen and a walk-on senior. The freshmen include Brittany Fischer (High Point, North Carolina), Hayley Jensen (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Haleigh Schofield (Fort Collins, Colorado) and Melissa Pond (Provo, Utah). All have strong gymnastics backgrounds. Jensen was a Level 10 Colorado state champion and Schofield was a Level 10 Junior Olympic Nationals competitor. Pond and Fischer were state champions in Levels 8 and 9 respectively. Senior Kendra Stephenson, a walk-on competing for the first time in three years, was a Level 9 Kansas state champion before coming to BYU.
The team will miss the contributions of Jaime Mabray and Kirsten Pauga who helped lead the team to Nationals last season.
BYU faces strong competition in its schedule this season, which includes a season opening trip to Oregon State for a meet that includes No. 13 Oregon State, No. 6 Florida and Iowa. The Cougars will also travel to Arizona for a meet with No. 17 Arizona and Florida again. As usual, the schedule is highlighted by annual meets with perennial power and No. 2 ranked Utah and tough in-state competitors Utah State and Southern Utah.