No. 24 BYU gymnastics ready to host No. 3 Utah in season-opener
Just ask BYU head gymnastics coach Guard Young what it is like to start the 2019 season by hosting rival Utah and the first response you will get is his grin.
“It’s great to take the floor against Utah, one of the Top 3 teams in the country,” Young said Wednesday. “It’s always an honor to compete against such a top program and even more to have them come down to Provo.”
The Cougars, who are ranked No. 24 in the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association preseason poll, host the No. 3-ranked Utes at the Marriott Center on Friday night in what Young believes will be a thrilling evening of competition.
“People are going to see amazing gymnastics from some of the best athletes in the country,” Young said. “You really don’t want to miss this opportunity.”
This is a dual meet, meaning BYU and Utah will be the only two teams squaring off. That means each routine will be showcased.
“It’s like a prize fight in that they do a routine, then we do a routine, back and forth,” Young said.
“Love the format where it’s one routine at a time. When you have four teams, you don’t always know what to watch. Here you watch one routine, then the next.”
This is the first opportunity for the Cougars to see just how much they can build off of an excellent showing in 2018, where BYU finished with its highest national ranking in 13 years as it claimed the No. 17 spot.
Young said his team has plenty of gifted athletes looking to take another step forward.
“I am really looking forward to this season,” 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.”
Leading the way is junior captain Shannon Evans, who went to nationals and was the first Cougar All-American in 14 years after she earned second-team honors for her performance on bars.
Young said Evans gained a lot from that experience and has shared that insight with her teammates. BYU also expects a lot from the two seniors, Natasha Marsh and Cheyenne Hill.
With the recent success, the goals just continue to get bigger for the program.
“As a team, we went to regionals and had our highest regionals point total in program history,” Young said. “We have many of our top gymnasts back and brought in 10 new freshmen. We have 24 gymnasts, which is one of the bigger programs in the country.”
He credited the athletes for their determination and dedication as they have pushed themselves since the end of last season.
“We’ve been working all year,” Young said. “Unlike some sports, we are able to be with the athletes year-round so we’ve been working. We had volunteer practices in the summer, but the girls committed to this program.”
He explained that the key for the Cougars this year is going to be how prepared all of the gymnasts are to step up.
“It isn’t your No.1 through No. 6 gymnasts that decide how good you are as a program,” Young said. “It is your No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9s. They have to be pushing the top gymnasts while also being ready to go in and compete if there are injuries or illness or other things that always seem to happen every season.”
He said he learned that lesson personally 15 years ago when he was with Team USA. After just missing making the team, he was the first alternate.
“I remember going and warming up and then watching from the stands as Team USA got the silver medal,” Young said. “I realized I wasn’t training to beat another American gymnast, but I was training to beat a gymnast from Team Russia or Team China of Team Japan. It changed how I prepared.”
He’s had his BYU gymnasts sticking to a strict training schedule as they have been getting ready.
“The girls have been working on routines since October as part of the eight-week building, four-week tapering program,” Young said. “We’re at the end of that cycle, so on Monday we’ll start the cycle again.”
The payoff has been that the team knows the lineup already, much earlier than usual, and the girls have already focused on exactly what they will be doing when they take the floor.
The Cougars are scheduled to host the Utes at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Marriott Center.