PROVO, Utah – In 2018, the BYU gymnastics team earned its highest national ranking in 13 years as it claimed the No. 17 spot and the 2019 season will be no different as high expectations are in place.
"I am really looking forward to this season," BYU head coach Guard Young said. "I think it is my strongest and deepest team since being the head coach here at BYU. The talent is definitely in the gym. There are some great returners who have some gymnastics experience while a lot of young talent is pushing their spots right now."
During the 2019 season, the Cougars will participate in 11 meets leading up to the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Championships in Provo. The schedule boasts a season opener against in-state rival and nationally ranked Utah on Friday, Jan. 11, at 7 p.m. MST in the Marriott Center.
BYU will also compete against four other teams that finished the 2018 season in the Top 25: Cal (9), Boise State (16), Arizona State (23) and George Washington (25).
"We are starting the season off with a great team that is ranked in the Top 10," said Young. "The University of Utah meet is always a treat for us as a team and as fans of gymnastics and we want everyone to come out for it."
Another big meet for local fans will be the annual Kids Meet when the Cougars host Utah State on Friday, Jan. 25, at 11 a.m. MST. Local elementary schools are invited to attend the meet that will take place in the Marriott Center.
"We have another school meet planned and signups are already filling up," Young said. "We get to have it in the Marriott Center this year and it will be pretty full and we are really excited about that."
The season will conclude with the Cougars hosting the MRGC Championships in the Marriott Center on Friday, Mar. 22, at 6 p.m. MST.
Multiple returners will play a significant role in the team's success in 2019. Junior captain Shannon Evans was the first All-American in 14 years at BYU after she was named Second Team All-America for her performance on bars at the 2018 NCAA National Championships.
She was also named MRGC all-around champion after earning 39.400 at the conference championships. She has been MRGC Specialist of the Week eight times, including four times for her performance on bars. In 2018, Evans also recorded career-high scores on bars (9.950), floor (9.950) and all-around (39.425).
"Shannon is our most visible athlete as an All-American," Young said. "She went to Nationals and brings great leadership to the team. I know she wants to make it back there and she wants to make it back as a team."
Seniors Natasha Marsh and Cheyenne Hill are also competitors to watch this season as their leadership will be key.
Marsh recorded career-high scores on bars (9.875) and beam (9.900) in 2018. She earned a 9.800 or higher on beam in eight-consecutive meets. The captain was named MRGC Specialist of the Week twice in 2018, once for her bars routine against Air Force and another on the beam against Utah State.
"We have two great seniors in Cheyenne and Natasha," Young said. "They are very scrappy and fight for every attempt and spot that they can get."
The Cougars welcome 11 new freshmen to the roster this season: Rachel Bain, Sarah Barron, Rebekah Bean, Lexi Griffith, Kelly Higginson, Gabrielle Hubbard, Ashley Kernan, Lexi Mather, Sadie Miner, Adeline Rieder and Brittney Vitkauskas.
"We also have some great young talent," Young said. "Rebekah Bean and Sadie Miner are coming in as freshmen and we will see what they bring to the table."
BYU will compete in two intrasquad meets before kicking off the season against the Utes.
The first will take place on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 10:30 a.m. MST in the team's practice facility in the Smith Fieldhouse. Fans are invited to attend and can watch the athletes compete up close.
On Friday, Dec. 14, the Cougars will hold their annual Blue & White Intrasquad meet at 6 p.m. MST in the Smith Fieldhouse.