Veteran experience takes charge: 2023 SUU gymnastics preview  

Scotty Bauman and SUU gymnastics look to keep the momentum going after a successful 2022 campaign that featured marquee wins over University of Arizona, Boise State University, Brigham Young University, Utah State University and University of Georgia. The Flippin’ Birds finished 28th in the final polls. 

The Flippin’ Birds defended the America First Event Center and were undefeated at home in the 2022 season. 

SUU set new school records on the uneven bars with a 49.450. Highest point total away from home with a 197. Lastly the school record for best score at NCAA Regionals with a 196.325. 

The  Flippin’ Birds return four members that earned All-Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference Honors. What makes this even more special is the four returners, Caitlin Kho, Rachel Smith, Shylen Murakami and Karley McClain opted for their fifth year option.

Kho was Vault First Team averaging 9.855 per meet, Smith earned Vault Second Team scoring 9.839 per contest, Murakami collected Bars Second Team tallying 9.892 a meet and is the defending MRGC Bars Champion. Lastly, McClain obtained Floor Second Team Honors equaling a 9.850 per meet. 

Alongside the four All-MRGC members, Mayson Bentley is returning for her fifth year as well. Bentley scored a career high 9.925 on the bars against BYU.  

The SUU roster features five seniors: Celine Barney, Ruby Hernandez, Kaylee Kho, Tiffani Stufflebeam and Nikki Thomas. The experience these gymnasts bring to the table will offset the loss of five former members who graduated last year, especially Hannah Nipp and Morgan Alfaro, two key members of the graduating class. 

The Flippin’ Birds have an experienced group of juniors on the roster, led by Hailey Vultaggio and Aubri Schwartze.

Head coach Scotty Bauman brought in eight freshmen to the 2023 roster. It is also a family reunion, with freshman Kennedi McClain joining her older sister Karley McClain. The eight new gymnasts bring national experience to the Thunderbird roster. The Flippin’ Birds are looking to make a tenth straight appearance at NCAA Regionals this season.  

The  Flippin’ Birds begin their season on Jan. 9 at home against the University of New Hampshire. 

Article by: Anthony Colasuono
Photos by: SUU Athletics