PROVO, Utah (January 15, 2003) Even with high hopes for the 2002 season dampened by a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Regional Championships and the loss of four incredible seniors, the 2003 season BYU's gymnastics team looks bright.
With plenty of talent and optimism these motivated women can nail this season.
Despite the team's disappointing finish at the NCAA Regional Championships, the 2002 season was full of outstanding performances. Kelly Evanson broke the school record in the all-around against Southern Utah with a 39.700, and Jeni Lopez also scored a career-high 39.425 in the all-around against Southern Utah.
Coach Brad Cattermole knows that it won't be easy to replace last year's seniors--Evanson, Lopez, Mindi Hilton and Angie Hickman--but as long as every gymnast scores personal bests, the team will be in great shape.
"Gymnastics isn't as much an individual sport as it may seem," Coach Cattermole said. "It is mostly a team effort. Everyone has good kids, but who has more of them?"
Losing four top-of-the-line seniors has put the pressure on the team to step up their performances. All four seniors were top scorers for the team last season. But Coach Cattermole is quick to point out that the team isn't disadvantaged by the loss.
"We have a young and talented team," he said. "We don't have the big all-around starters that we did last year. How well we do is determined on how we come together as a team."
Founded by incredible performance and success in the 2002 season, Kari Lords and Jaime Mabray are predicted to be the high scorers and leaders for this year's team. Mabray barely missed qualifying individually for nationals last year as a freshman and Lords tied the school records on the floor exercise at Southern Utah and on the balance beam at the University of Utah.
Juniors Brogan Jacobsen and Trisha Ashton and senior Lindsay Butterfield are also strong assets to the team. Jacobsen specializes on bars and floor, while Ashton and Butterfield compete all-around.
Newcomers to this years team, Staci Butterfield, Meghan Donahue, Jennifer Harvey, Misty Philbrick and Lisa Willis will have to work hard to fill the shoes of the departed seniors, but will add greatly to the team.
This year's captains are seasoned seniors Brooke Haskett and Candace Slater. Excluding vault, Haskett has competed in every event on a regular basis. Slater has specialized in floor exercise.
Coach Cattermole is excited for the season to start, but also would like a few pre-season meets or exhibition meets.
"We need to start meets and start competing, but you always want two more weeks to practice and to prepare."
The team gets its first chance to show off their skills at the season opener at Utah on January 17. The Cougars are also up against Oregon State, who edged out BYU for the final position at Nationals in 2001.
With national competitors like Utah and Oregon State on their schedule, each gymnast is going to have to step up their performances and hit their routines, but Coach Cattermole knows that the only time a win-loss record really makes a difference is at regionals and nationals.
"Whether or not you beat somebody's score doesn't matter. Beating personal bests and scoring high team scores is the focus. You only have to win at regionals or nationals. Everything else is about the team," he said.
The road ahead for the Cougars isn't going to be easy, but with the leadership of skilled captains, the talent of the incoming freshman, and the high level of ability and heart from the other returning gymnasts, these capable and talented women are on the right track to qualify for the national championships.