Alethea Boon was one of several Cougar gymnasts to help lift BYU to a successful 2007 season. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
An eighth-consecutive NCAA Regionals appearance, where it placed fourth, its highest team and event scores in two years, a Top 25 ranking almost the entire season and some of the top individual marks in school history. All was accomplished by a young BYU gymnastics squad in 2007.
"We did well," BYU coach Brad Cattermole said of the season. "The girls fought hard all the way through and did a great job."
A perennial fixture on the collegiate gymnastics scene and a traditional top 20 program, the Cougars finished No. 28 nationally and raised expectations for the future.
Facing many questions and a difficult schedule, BYU showed its potential throughout the challenging season. The Cougars opened the season with a third-place finish at the Cancun classic, finishing ahead of then-No. 18 Missouri and just behind Auburn, No. 20 at the time. Over the course of the year they picked up a victory over No. 13 Arizona and recorded finishes just barely behind No. 11 Oregon State and No. 15 Arkansas in multiple-team meets. During the year, BYU faced nine teams that finished the season in the Top 25, including eventual national-champion Georgia, No. 2 Utah and five other teams in the top 15. The Cougars amassed 15 wins from this tough schedule that also included meets with Utah State, who qualified for Regionals, in-state foe Southern Utah and Boise State.
As in 2006, key injuries plagued BYU at times. Co-captain Kylee Draper and talented sophomore Hayley Jensen each ended up missing half the season due to injuries, while other key contributors had their production limited at the end of the season.
"Having these injuries at the end of the year really hurt," Cattermole said. "You are sure to have injuries in gymnastics though."
The team saw some benefits come from these bumps and bruises, however. Several gymnasts stepped up with good scores and gained valuable experience and confidence to give the team needed depth. Boon and Dayna Smart each saw time in the bars lineup and contributed 9.800-plus scores. Freshman Danielle Goldman stepped in on vault to help spark the team to some of their best scores of the season.
Goldman was not the only first-year Cougar to contribute, however. Jenna Kerbis and Kiki Berrett both competed regularly on two events, while six other talented freshmen all gained experience and produced several high marks to give Cattermole high hopes for his young pupils.
"They did good in meets," Cattermole said. "They developed really well throughout the season and will do much better next year. They are seasoned veterans now."
Despite experiencing high and low points during the season, the vault squad ranked No. 30 nationally on the event. After being up and down through its first six meets, BYU recorded at least a 48.900 in three of its next four contests. This included a season-best 49.050 in a tri meet with No. 11 Oregon State.
Junior co-captains Boon and Smart led the team in every meet during the season. Boon recorded nine vaults of 9.800 or better, including a career high and the seventh-best mark in school history at 9.950. Smart had eight vaults of 9.800 or higher while tying a personal-best 9.900 three times. Smart ranked No. 25 nationally on the event, while Boon was ranked No. 35.
Four different freshmen competed regularly on the event, as Kerbis posted the best mark of the four at 9.800.
The words high and low could be used to describe the 2007 Cougars on the event that has both a high and low bar. Up and down performances told their story during the first part of the season. The last month of the season, however, they swung high and recorded some of their best routines of the season. This included a 48.975 against OSU and a season-best 49.000 to top Arizona. BYU finished the year ranked No. 25 in the nation on the event, despite missing one of its top bars performers, Draper, for half the season.
Draper and Boon landed the team's best marks at 9.875 each, a career-best for both. Senior Kacie Capra-Callens was the team's most consistent performer with nine 9.750-plus performances. Freshman McKell Poulson and junior Aimee Walker-Pond, who is deaf in both ears and blind in her right eye, both provided high scores on the event that saw several lineup changes throughout the season.
Its best event the last two years was statistically the team's best event again this season. The Cougars finished the year ranked No. 20 on the event after spending the early part of the season in the top 15. They posted two 49-plus scores, including a 49.125 against Utah State in their fourth meet of the year.
Individually, seven of the eight competitors that competed on the event during the season posted a 9.800 or better. The squad was anchored by one of the best beam workers in the nation over the last two years, Smart. The junior led the way throughout the year with 9.800-plus scores in all but three meets, including the eighth-best mark in school history and a career-best 9.950 against Utah State. The Sandy, Utah, native also picked up eight individual titles over the course of the season. In addition to Smart, Boon, Hayley Jensen and Lisa Willis all recorded career highs on the four-inch-wide apparatus.
Despite a slow start on the event early in the season, a couple bumps along the way and a lineup that saw three freshmen competing at times, floor turned out to be perhaps BYU's best event in 22007. Four of the Cougars' best event scores of the season came from their tumbling skills and helped produce a No. 25 national ranking on the event. Their season-best 49.450, their best event score since 2005, came in a tri-meet victory over Arizona and SUU. The very next week, BYU tumbled to a 49.200 against Utah on senior night.
Seven of the eight gymnasts that competed on the event posted at least a 9.825 and/or a career-high score. Smart posted the highest mark with a 9.975, the second-best floor mark in school history, and won four individual titles. Willis and Capra-Callens recorded marks of 9.925 and 9.900, respectively, a career-best for Capra-Callens. Draper and freshmen Heidi Poulson and Berrett each had 9.850 scores.
Two gymnasts saw action on all four events during the course of the year. Smart competed all-around in six meets and won five individual titles, including outings of 39.375 and 39.500. Boon competed on all four events just twice, but she still managed two 39-plus scores and one individual title. Her best mark was a 39.225 against OSU and Utah State.
The Cougars rode their experience and young talent into a No. 4 NCAA Regionals seed and high hopes for a return trip to the National Championships. Once there, however, they ran smack into three top 15 teams and stiff judging and were unable to put together the routines needed to move on to NCAA Nationals. The team finished right in line with their No. 4 seed and bid adieu to seniors Capra-Callens and Willis, who finished their collegiate careers at Regionals.
"We would have liked to have done better," Cattermole said. "We did good though. The girls finished up like champions. They fought hard all the way through. It was a great experience for those girls coming back."
Awards and Accolades
Jensen, a Colorado Springs, Colo. native, was awarded with the Kimball Award for high achievement on the field and in the classroom at the schools annual Y Awards honoring the efforts of BYU coaches, athletes and volunteers on and off the field. Willis was named to the CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII Second Team. Both were named Mountain West Conference Scholar Athletes.