(Photo by Jonathan Hardy/BYU Photo)
The BYU women’s gymnastics team is looking forward to a season of exceptional performances as they return 11 lettermen, including five seniors, to the lineup. The 2011 season concluded with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Regionals in Denver, Colo., and the Cougars are looking to improve on last year’s success.
Strong returners include senior Jennifer Lezeu, who started competing in the All-Around last year. In her first meet competing All-Around, against Auburn, Lezeu won with a score of 39.050. Joining her this year in competing every event will be sophomore Raquel Willman. This will be the first time two Cougars have competed All-Around since the 2009 season.
Another top contender sophomore Haylee Rollins will unfortunately be out for the season. According to head coach Brad Cattermole, Rollins was top-three in each event. Rollins will be undergoing surgery for a foot problem.
Thanks to the depth of the roster, despite injuries, the Cougars are confident in the athletes that will compete at each event.
“Right now we’re pretty strong with probably four kids on each event,” Cattermole said. “It’s just those other two we need to pick up. And that is with losing Haylee and KayCee. It’s just like football, other people have to step up, and I am confident they will.”
“Vault is going to be one of those events where I think we’ll start out okay, but it might end up being our strongest event by the end of the season,” said Cattermole.
After a couple seasons battling injury, senior Holland Matheson has worked her way back into the rotation.
“Holland got a little beat up at the end of last season, but she is back in there wanting to give it a go,” Cattermole said.
Senior Natalie Pickard will be a strong presence this year for the team, particularly on the bars. Last season Pickard was a very consistent contributor and had a season-high score of 9.850. In her second season as a Cougar, sophomore KayCee Gassaway will also be competing on bars.
“We have a couple of girls in the lineup that are very consistent but they do make an occasional mistake,” explained Cattermole. “If they perform to their capabilites, we’ll be good.”
“Beam is a bit of a struggle this year,” Cattermole admitted. “As we get some experience and get into meets we’ll be great. The difficult part is that the difference in hitting on the beam or not as far as points go, is a lot more than if someone was to take a step on a vault.”
Helping bring experience to the event will be senior Krysten Koval. Koval is known for her prowess on the beam and scored a team season-high 9.900 last year against Utah.
Floor will be a mix of new and old faces. Koval will compete on the event for the first time in her career. Senior Mickell Merrell will continue competing in the event, as she has proven to be a solid competitor whose consistency makes her an asset to the team. Recent breakthrough sophomore Megan Bain is anxious to prove herself after a strong rookie campaign.
“Everyone has something they need to work on to get better,” Cattermole said. “Megan has solved those problems and doesn’t make those mistakes like she did when she was a freshman. It’s like she has doubled or tripled her work and she is like a different kid.”
Overall there is a feeling of excitement about the season, particularly the fact that so many of the gymnasts have significant experience.
“When they return, they know what they are getting into,” Cattermole said. “Having more experienced gymnasts is easier on a coach because you don’t have to wonder what they are all going to do. You know what they are capable of and you are confident in their abilities.”
All four of the Cougars home meets will be broadcast on BYUtv.
12:00 pm MST
7:00 pm MST
Utah State & Southern Utah
1:00 pm MST
4:00 pm MST