The BYU gymnastics season kicks off Thursday. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- After a 2009 season plagued by injuries, a new and improved BYU gymnastics team is hungry for redemption. The Cougars will look not only to return to the national stage by receiving an NCAA tournament berth but also to make an impact upon arrival.
“Our hope this season is to have a season void of injuries,” BYU head coach Brad Cattermole said. “This team knows what they are capable of and they want to prove themselves this season by showing the athletes they are capable of being when they are not injured.”
BYU is led by seniors Megan Donehue, Kaylee Gallup, Danielle Goldman and McKell Merkley. Each of these veterans have been competing for the Cougars in the past three seasons and the team will look to them for guidance and leadership.
Donehue and Merkley will return as second-year captains. Gallup returns after being the only Cougar to qualify for NCAA Regionals last season, competing on the balance beam. Goldman is likely to compete once again for BYU in the all-around competition.
Madeleine Johnson is the only junior returning to compete for the Cougars. Johnson will look to represent BYU in each of the four apparatuses.
Sophomores make up more than half of the team with nine gymnasts returning for their second year with the Cougars.
“Last year we had ten freshmen who didn’t our lack of success but this year many of them have returned as sophomores who are healthy and ready to compete,” said Cattermole. “I give those girls credit because they came through for us last season and hit when we had no other options. They gained confidence and not much will be able to knock them out of their game plan this season.”
The team will feature three newcomers this year. Kendra Carver, a native of Beaverton, Ore., comes to BYU after placing fourth in the all-around at the 2008 Level 10 Oregon State Championship. Haylee Rollins, from Phoenix, Ariz., won the all-around at the Arizona 2009 Optional State Championships. Sarah Yandow, a product of Orem, Utah joins the team after placing 54th in the 2009 Junior Olympic National Championships.
“The biggest difference between this season and last season is that this year we have options.” Cattermole said. “Last year we worried about surviving the vault and this year we want to stick the landing. Last season we worried about making it through our bar routine and this season we are able to concentrate on the dismount.”
The Cougar schedule will feature meets against three in-state rivals: University of Utah, Southern Utah and Utah State. They will also face off against SUU, Denver, Iowa State, Utah State, South East Missouri, Boise State and Arizona State.
BYU will look to improve on vault this season. Last season the Cougars had very few gymnasts with a 10.0 start value but this season Cattermole says the team has “eight or ten gymnasts who have a 10.0 start value on the vault.”
The bars are one apparatus that the Cougars have a wide range of gymnasts capable of competing. “Last year we would have been happy with a number of the girls’ bar routines but we will have to figure out throughout the season how to get the best routine at each meet,” Cattermole explained.
BYU hopes to become more consistent on the balance beam this season. Staying in good health will be key in achieving this goal. They will be led by senior Kaylee Gallup who competed in the event last year at the NCAA regionals.
The floor exercise has, in the past, been the event that Cougar gymnasts have thrived in. However, this year Cattermole explains that the floor is the event the team has the least amount of experience in. “The girls have upgraded their routines in order to raise their start values,” he said. “But every time you raise a start value you are taking a chance because you lack experience performing the required skills.”
BYU gymnastics is starting over. The team has put the frustrations of last season behind them and is ready to show the world their ability to bounce back.
“If we stay healthy this season we’ll be okay,” said Cattermole. “There isn’t an event that we should be better on this season.”