The 2009 BYU women’s gymnastics season came with plenty of adversity but also brought new opportunities for growth and leadership. The Cougars struggled mightily with injuries throughout the season, leading to drastic line-up changes and lower scores, but saw several gymnasts step up in big moments.
Overall, six gymnasts missed a total of 34 competitions due to various injuries throughout the year, including team co-captains Megan Donehue and McKell Poulson-Merkley. On a squad with no seniors, these injuries proved especially damaging. At times, the Cougars were even forced to use five-person rotations, leaving no room for error.
However, as a result of these challenges, several gymnasts had the opportunity to step up and contribute in extraordinary ways. The freshmen-laden team seemingly grew up over night and gained valuable competition experience. In addition to solid performances from upperclassmen such as Danielle Goldman and Kaylee Gallup throughout the year, the team came to count on the likes of freshmen Jennifer Lezeu, Mickell Merrell and Emiko Ono as well as several others to keep the Cougars on track.
“This was a tough year, but a great year,” said BYU head coach Brad Cattermole. “We had to deal with a lot of injuries, but our gymnasts really stepped up when they had to. They didn’t get down, and they never gave up. I’m really proud of them.”
While BYU did not receive an NCAA Regionals invitation for just the second time since 1989, the Cougars still enjoyed success, including a second-place finish at the BYU Quad meet. The team also turned in a season-high score of 192.850 at a Quad meet hosted by No. 1 Utah, besting Texas Women’s in the process, and a score of 197.725 against the Utes in the final meet of the season.
The vault actually proved to be the strongest event for the Cougars in 2009 as they topped the 48.000 mark six times in the last eight meets. The top score of 49.100 at the Utah Quad meet was the highest mark recorded by BYU on any event all year.
Ten Cougars actually competed on the apparatus throughout the season as a result of myriad injuries. While Donehue posted the top Cougar score of 9.875, the real surprise of the season was freshman Koval, who also posted a 9.875. Koval topped the 9.700 mark four times in the first six meets of the year before suffering an illness that prevented her from competing again. Freshman Ono also came up big with a top score of 9.850.
Injuries proved especially costly to the Cougars on the uneven bars as the line-up was in a state of constant uproar. The BYU high score of 48.575 came at the University of Denver and was the third and final time the Cougars topped the 48.000 mark. Competing several times with just five gymnasts on the apparatus, BYU relied on contributions from seasoned performers such as sophomore Madeleine Johnson and junior Melissa Hough while adding newcomers into the mix.
Johnson posted the high score of the season on the event with a career-high 9.850 while Hough had a career-best 9.775. Ono and sophomore Whitney Olsen were also called upon in the second half of the year as injuries mounted to round out the rotation with solid results.
Beam specialist Gallup kept the Cougars on track throughout the year on this event, helping BYU score at least 48.000 in five meets. The best two marks came in the last two competitions with a 48.800 at Utah State and a 48.500 against No. 1 Utah. Nine Cougars competed on the event throughout the year with six of them posting scores above 9.800.
Gallup led the way with a 9.925 at Utah State, the highest score recorded by any Cougar on any event during the season. For her consistent efforts, she was invited to the NCAA North Central Regionals to compete independently on the balance beam, posting a 9.600.
The Cougars were also solid on the floor exercise throughout the season, topping the 48.000 mark on six occasions. They saved their best for last with a 48.875 against No. 1 Utah in the final meet of the season. Goldman, Johnson and Olsen all had season highs above 9.800 led by Goldman’s 9.850 against the Utes.
Johnson began competing on the floor midway through the year to help fill out the depleted rotation while sophomore Jessica Villegas made her season debut on the floor in the third meet of the year after battling back from a shoulder injury suffered in 2008. Both contributed heavily for the Cougars.
The Cougars ended up with two main all-around competitors, albeit somewhat unintentionally. While Coach Cattermole prefers to have gymnasts only compete on their best events, generally resulting in fewer all-arounders, the season’s injuries forced the healthiest gymnasts to fill in the gaps. Thus Johnson and Goldman emerged as BYU’s go-to girls.
Goldman turned in an all-around score in eight meets while Johnson did so in five. Lezeu also got in on the action in the final meet of the year. Johnson’s top score of 38.775 was BYU’s highest on the season as she topped the 38.000 mark in all five of her all-around competitions. Goldman recorded a season-best score of 38.250.