For the first time this year, the Southern Utah University Flippin’ ‘Birds competed at home in the America First Event Center against the Air Force Falcons. SUU secured the victory, scoring 195.800 while Air Force left the meet with a score of 190.450.
Despite not having a proper finish to the 2020 season due to COVID-19, the T-Birds came into the new year with a goal in mind.
“We trust what we do earlier in the week and bring it out on the floor at the meet,” junior Karley McClain said. “Then we take that back and improve the next week. That’s what we’re going to do this season.”
Senior Molly Jozwiakowski opened the meet by taking off on the vault and landing with a score of 9.675. All-around gymnast, McClain, along with Caitlin Kho, led the event with 9.80 points apiece. Tyler Davis led the Falcons with a score of 9.700. The Thunderbirds ended the first rotation with 48.725.
During the second rotation on the uneven parallel bars, it was McClain, along with teammates Aubri Schwartze and Hannah Nipp, that each scored an event high of 9.825. Cam Barber ended her routine with 9.550 to lead Air Force.
“I loved what I saw out of Schwartze tonight,” SUU head coach Scotty Bauman said. “We can start inserting her in a couple more routines now.”
Nikki Thomas had her home debut and personal best during the bar event with a score of 9.750.
SUU concluded the bars with a score of 49.075 while Air Force finished with 46.875.
To start SUU off on the beam, junior Shylen Murakami hit a score of 9.800. McClain claimed another event high with 9.875 and helped SUU end the rotation with an overall score of 48.725.
Briona Carswell nailed a 9.800 as she started the Falcons on the beam. Teammate Heidi Sand finished her meet with 9.775. Air Force finished the beam event with a team score of 48.375, just .350 points less than the Thunderbirds, making the beam the closest event of the meet.
Concluding the evening, the Thunderbirds competed in their floor routines. Freshman, Hailey Vultaggio, made her home debut and dazzled the area with a score of 9.875. Following Vultaggio was Schwartze as she finished her evening with a 9.850.
“They enter the gym every day knowing they’re good at gymnastics,” McClain said of Vultaggio and Schwartze, both freshmen. “When they hit their routines we know that we better hit ours.”
McClain concluded her floor routine with a score of 9.775. Nipp wrapped the evening up for the T-birds with a complex floor routine that ultimately rewarded her with a meet high of 9.900.
“Every time I approach an event I dial in and focus. I approach it the same way I do in practice.” Nipp said.
The Thunderbirds finished their floor routines and tallied up a score of 49.150. Air Force notched a 47.250.
“That was a great improvement from our first meet but we still have huge mistakes we need to get rid of,” Coach Bauman said. “Easy, doable things.”
At the conclusion of the meet, McClain ended her all-around night with a total of 39.275 while Sand finished just points behind with a score of 38.125 for Air Force.
The Flippin’ ‘Birds will continue their season on the road as they prepare to face off with Utah State University on January 22 in Logan, Utah.
Story by: Lainie Hallows
Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletic Department Strategic Communication