Feature Story: Dayna Smart-Allen

In the 2007 season Smart-Allen finished with a total of 23 individual titles on the season and five all-around titles. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

There are four events at a gymnastics meet: floor exercise, vault, bars, and beam. Competitors can win individual events or the all-around competition, meaning the best overall score from the four events combined, at each meet. In addition to the individual competition, the athletes from each team combine their scores for a team score, which is what is used to determine the team's national rank.

BYU gymnast Dayna Smart is a leader on the Cougar squad in every event. In 2007 she competed in the all-around in six meets and won five all-around titles. She finished with a total of 23 individual titles on the season, including four on vault, two on bars, eight on beam, four on floor and the five in the all-around.

"In gymnastics, it doesn't matter who your opponent is," Smart said. "You are your own competition. Each time I compete I am trying to beat my own personal best, and I really like that challenge."

Smart is in her fourth and final year in gymnastics competition at BYU. She broke her tibia as a freshman and had to redshirt that season, but has competed at a high level since returning. Smart received a BS in Fitness and Wellness last year and is in her first year of graduate work in Exercise Science Health Promotion.

Keeping Track of a Full Plate

Not only is Smart a team captain and graduate student, but she has also been a member of the Cougar Council (a student-athlete leadership council), and is planning her wedding for Nov. 20 of this year.

Smart's parents, Eric and Patti Smart, both said that although gymnastics has consumed much of their daughter's life, her dedication to the sport has also trained her to organize her time effectively and excel in other aspects of life.

"Dayna has been doing gymnastics since she was four years old, so it has been part of our lives for a long time," Eric Smart said. "It quickly became time consuming with rehearsals and practice. She's had to organize her time, and she's done well in school. A lot of that is because of her focus and work ethic."

Patti Smart agreed with her husband and said she is impressed with how gymnastics has helped her daughter accomplish what she has.

"Gymnastics is a mental sport," Patti Smart said. "It's 30 percent physical and 70 percent mental. There is fear, danger and injury and the girls have to do many repetitions in order to overcome those things. Dayna's taken what she's learned mentally in gymnastics into every aspect of her life, and she does everything 100 percent."

Smart said since she was four years old she has only missed one year in gymnastics other than her redshirt year. When asked what drew her to the sport, she said she can't remember, but she does remember why she has not left the sport.

"I think I got into it so young and enjoyed it so much that it became something that I did," Smart said. "Gymnastics was my regular schedule. I took a year off in sixth or seventh grade because I needed a break, but it had become such a part of me that I missed flipping around in the air. I can't explain what it is."

Smart Competition

Floor exercise, vault, and beam are Smart's primary events. Although she competed in bars for the first time last year, she did win two individual titles in the event in 2007. Although she is proficient in all four, Smart said there is less in common between the four events than people might expect.

"The tricks for each event are not transferable," she said. "We have four completely different workouts, one for each event. There is a different mindset for each event, too. One event might be harder or easier than another, and I really have to adjust my focus. For example, bars is the most difficult for me mentally. I haven't competed in bars as much because it is mentally tough on me."

Not only are the tricks nontransferable between events, Smart also said that the workouts are different between gymnasts because each competitor does different tricks. Each individual repeats the same tricks hundreds of times and even uses the same routine in an event for all four years of collegiate competition.

"In college you have the tricks that you need, and you just need to perfect them," Smart said. "There are not many things that I have really changed from when I first got here to BYU. It's just making them better. In club is when you learn a lot more tricks and how to connect them together. In college you do a little bit of that, but not much."

Smart did say that there are a few things that she has changed and continues to change in her performances. But even though she has completed and performed the tricks countless times, the tricks are still difficult.

For example, the vault that Smart said she has done hundreds of times is called the Yurchenko full. It consists of a round-off onto the spring board, a back handspring off the vaulting table, and ends with a back flip with a full twist to land facing the vault. The trick has a start value of 10.0, meaning it has a full difficulty level.

"I could add in something harder or try a new trick, but sometimes it's hard to see a good reason behind that," she said. "If you already have a 10.0 start value, why would you try to do something harder when you can still do a good routine that looks better? You won't get as many points taken off because you've perfected those skills."

Why Brigham Young?

Smart said she came to BYU because it was close to home, she likes the strong LDS environment, and she fits in with her teammates that share her same values and standards. She was recruited by other Division I schools, including nationally touted and in-state rival Utah, but she said they did not feel like they were the right fit.

"Dayna has been a standout since she got here," BYU head gymnastics coach Brad Cattermole said. "I think having a broken leg her freshman year and watching everyone else compete motivated her to the point that since she has come back she's been our team's star. She'll be hard to replace because she's so self-sufficient."

Smart said that Cattermole is less intense than her club coach was, which is mainly a good thing. Because of the expectations that came along with her club career, she said she came into BYU a little too intense and self-defeating, and coach Cattermole helped her not to beat herself up so much.

"She's been a team leader and a team standout," Cattermole said. "The only drawback is that she's awfully hard on herself. She doesn't like the fact that she might have a bad day and she struggles with handling a bad day. That's part of what makes her good, she wants to be the best and she'll do what it takes to be the best."

Smart is one of BYU's best. If history and expertise are any indications, fans can expect to see great things from Smart and her teammates in the 2008 gymnastics season beginning in January.

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