Cougar Gymnasts Battle Adversity to Score Big
PROVO -- The Marriott Center magic was in full force Friday night as the BYU gymnastics team posted its second-highest score of the year at 192.575 in quad-meet competition. Despite losing junior co-captain Megan Donehue to injury during warm-ups, the Cougars stepped up and scored big, finishing second behind No. 28 San Jose State and ahead of Boise State and No. 37 Utah State.
“This team works extremely hard,” said BYU head coach Brad Cattermole. “Everyone had to step up and give us something and they did. The silver lining to all this is that this team is going to be really seasoned. We’re just going to keep giving it our best shot.
BYU began the night on the vault with solid results, posting its second-highest score of the year at 48.350. Junior Danielle Goldman tallied a season-high 9.750 along with freshman Krysten Koval to pace BYU. Fellow freshmen Jennifer Lezeu (9.600) and Mickell Merrell (9.575) recorded career highs while freshman Kylie Gallacher made her career debut on the vault with a 9.400. With several strong performances, the Cougars found themselves in second place behind San Jose State after the first rotation.
The Cougars’ will to compete was powerfully displayed on the uneven bars as BYU battled through adversity to post their highest score of the year at 48.350. Injuries to Natalie Eyre and Holland Davis last week had already whittled down the BYU bars line-up to five gymnasts, making every score count. The loss of Donehue meant the freshman Emiko Ono made her career bars debut, posting a 9.525 to help her team. Sophomore Madeleine Johnson led the team with a 9.800 while Koval contributed a career-high 9.650 to help the Cougars maintain their hold on second place, just .150 points behind SJSU.
“Emiko really got thrown into the fire,” said Cattermole. “She wasn’t ready to do a bars routing and was scared to death. But she got up there and hit her routine. She found a way and did an exceptional job.”
“There was a lot of emotions going through my mind, but mostly I was excited,” said Ono. “When it was all over, it felt really good. I was very happy.”
Three career highs on the balance beam helped BYU maintain its momentum. Kaylee Gallup turned in the high score of the event with a 9.800, tying her personal best. Jessica Villegas posted a career-high 9.700 while Johnson made her season debut on the apparatus with a 9.700. Overall, the Cougars turned in a team score of 48.025. However, Boise State scored big on its third rotation to push BYU to third place heading into the final rotation.
With just one rotation left, the Cougars were in sight of their highest score of the year. However, the energy was perhaps a little too high for BYU as three gymnasts were penalized for stepping out of bounds. Johnson notched a personal-best 9.775 and Villegas tied her career high with a 9.700 to equal a team score of 47.850.
BYU will once again be competing at home next week as the Cougars take on Southern Utah on Friday night at 7 p.m. The meet will be held in the Smith Fieldhouse and will be televised live on BYUTV.
Home Sweet Home for BYU Gymnasts
PROVO -- The Marriott Center will be rocking this Friday as the BYU gymnastics team competes at home for the first time since Jan. 9, hosting Utah State, Boise State and San Jose State in a quad meet. The competition will begin at 7 p.m. and feature continuous action from all four teams.
“"We just need to keep plugging away,” said BYU head coach Brad Cattermole. “We've had some injuries and are already a very young team, but we'll just keep moving forward with who we have and keep working to get better."
The Cougars have suffered crushing blows over the last month in the injury department. BYU lost junior co-captain McKell Poulson-Merkley in the middle of January to a torn ACL. Then last week, the injury bug struck again as freshmen Holland Davis and Natalie Eyre both went down. As a result, BYU will be forced to compete with just five gymnasts on the uneven bars. Cattermole is hoping freshman and former Canadian National Team member Jennifer Lezeu will be ready to go on that event soon.
“We hadn’t really planned on using Jenny on that event this year so she was working on a more difficult routine for next season,” said Cattermole. “Now she’ll start preparing a more basic routine that she’s comfortable with, and she’ll become our sixth bar worker when she’s ready.”
The quad meet will be the biggest home meet of the year for the Cougars in terms of sheer numbers. BYU has already seen San Jose State this year at SJSU and will face both Boise State and Utah State later on in the season. The Spartans are ranked No. 28 in the country and are led by Veronica Porte, who is tied for 14th on the floor. The Broncos are coming off their best score of the season with a 195.700 at UCLA last week. Utah State enters the meet with a No. 37 ranking as Nicole Simoneau sits at No. 25 in the nation on the bars.
Friday’s meet in the Marriott Center will be the first of the year in that venue for the Cougars. They will also compete there on March 20 against Utah. BYU’s only other home meet of the year was Jan. 9 against Oregon State in the Smith Fieldhouse. Live stats are available and can be found by going to the schedule page of the BYU women’s gymnastics homepage at www.byucougars.com/gymnastics_w.