The Southern Utah University gymnastics team is set to compete in the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference championship on Saturday, March 20, in Logan, Utah.
The Flippin’ Birds enter the championship ranked No. 20 in the nation, the third highest ranking in the conference. Fellow conference members Brigham Young University (ranked No. 12) and Boise State University (ranked No. 13) enter the meet with higher national qualifying scores, 197.063 and 196.706 respectively, while SUU comes in with an NQS of 196.663.
Only Utah State University, ranked No. 21 in the nation, comes into Saturday’s championship behind SUU.
Season in Review
SUU opened the season on Jan. 9, placing fourth at the Best of Utah meet, behind the University of Utah, BYU, and Utah State.
The Flippin’ Birds rebounded by winning their next three meets in a row.
First, they beat Air Force in the squad’s first meet inside the America First Event Center on Jan. 16, 195.800-190.450. While the meet turned out in SUU’s favor, not a single T-Bird scored above a 9.85 on any routine until Hannah Nipp scored a 9.90 in the final routine of the night on the floor.
Against Utah State in Logan, the T-Birds posted their highest road score in school history with a 196.650. Karley McClain dominated the evening, scoring 9.825 or higher in every single event. Shylen Murakami scored a 9.90 on both the balance beam and the uneven parallel bars while Mayson Bentley scored 9.90 on the bars for the second time in three meets.
In their second home meet of the season, Southern Utah secured the win over Boise State thanks to a solid performance from all six competitors on each routine. McClain scored a season high 9.925 on floor, while Molly Jozwiakowski scored a 9.900 on floor.
The T-Birds then matched up against BYU two straight weeks– once in Provo and once in Cedar City. The T-Birds fell both times due to huge performances in both meets from BYU senior Abbey Miner Alder.
SUU responded after the losses by posting their highest score in school history against Utah State in the America First Events Center with a 197.275. Nipp, McClain, Aubri Schwartze and Rachel Smith all scored 9.900’s or better in various events, and there was not a single T-Bird who scored below 9.775 in the meet.
Boise State overcame the T-Birds in Boise before the T-Birds’ final two three-team meets.
At the three-team meet against the University of Denver and Utah State in Denver, SUU placed third, before placing first at the three-team meet against the University of Arizona and Air Force in Tuscon.
What to Watch For
The MRGC is loaded with talented gymnasts who can be expected to give their all this weekend.
BYU comes into the meet placing either first in second in every single meet this season.
The Cougars are headlined by their all-around phenom Abbey Miner Alder. This season, Alder was named MRGC Gymnast of the Week twice, MRGC Vault Specialist of the Week four times, and MRGC Floor Specialist of the Week four times. She achieved her career-high in the all-around category against SUU in Cedar back on February 12.
Boise State comes into the championships as losers of just two meets this season. They’re one of the hottest squads in the sport right now, as the Broncos swept the four-team meet that included the University of Washington, Stanford University, and No. 10 ranked Arizona State University.
SUU has arguably the best gymnast in the conference, however, in McClain.
This season, McClain was named MRGC Gymnast of the Week five times, MRGC Beam Specialist of the Week three times and MRGC Floor Specialist of the Week five times. McClain– despite struggling in the last few meets– is as dangerous as any gymnast out there and can put up big scores in a hurry.
Where and When
The MRGC championship will take place Saturday, March 20, at the Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah. The meet is set to begin at 6 p.m.
Story by: Kelton Jacobsen
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletic Department Strategic Communication