The Southern Utah University and Utah State University gymnastics teams will compete against each other on Jan. 20. Both are in the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference, which has four members total. SUU is currently atop the standings, and USU is in second place.
Graduate athlete Karley McClain has been the Thunderbirds’ best worst-kept secret this year. She has been named the MRGC’s Gymnast of the Week twice in a row. While she competes in all events, she currently holds the conference’s best score for the floor event with 9.925.
Freshman Kayla Pardue has been a welcome addition to SUU this year and has excelled when it comes to the vault. In the first week of competition, she was named the MRGC’s Vault Specialist of the Week when she earned a 9.850, a score which is still the best in the conference.
The uneven bars is the only event the Thunderbirds do not lead the conference in. Instead, they fall just into second place behind Brigham Young University. That has not stifled their success, though, and freshman Trista Goodman has led the way. Winning the MRGC’s Bars Specialist of the Week alongside BYU’s Anyssa Alvarado, she is tied with McClain for SUU’s best score of 9.900.
McClain has been Southern Utah’s best balance beam performer up to this point, but her highest score of 9.850 places her at only fifth best in the conference.
Floor is SUU’s strongest event, with junior Hailey Vultaggio and McClain being named the MRGC’s Floor Specialists of the Week in consecutive weeks. McClain has earned the conference’s best score with 9.925, and Vultaggio is a close second with 9.875, along with junior Aubri Schwartze.
Collectively, Southern Utah put up the best team score in the conference when they scored 196.175 in the Best of Utah meet. Their other team bests include 49.025 on vault, 49.150 on bars, 49.125 on beam, and 49.350 on floor.
So far, the Aggies’ only meet has been the Best of Utah, where they took third place out of four teams, falling behind the University of Utah and SUU.
Junior Brianna Brooks’ 9.825 was the Aggies’ best vault score. Sophomore Payton Gatzlaff followed closely behind with 9.800.
Tied for the team’s top score of 9.825 on bars are senior Jessica Gutierrez and freshman Avery Bibbey. It is not quite good enough to make even the top ten scores for the MRGC this season.
Utah State has found success on the beam, and their senior Sofi Sullivan has won the most recent MRGC Beam Specialist of the Week, sharing the recognition with Boise State’s Emily Lopez. Sullivan scored a 9.900, which ties her for the top score in the conference.
The Aggies are just behind the Thunderbirds on the floor event and have three gymnasts tied for the seventh best score in the conference. Seniors Alivia Ostendorf and Ariel Toomey as well as sophomore Amari Evans all put up 9.850.
As a team, Utah State scored 48.625 on vault, 49.025 on bars, 49.025 on beam, and 49.125 on floor.
The meet will take place on Friday, Jan. 20, at 7 p.m. MST. It will be in the America First Event Center and can be streamed on ESPN+.
Story and photos by: Anden Garfield