Southern Utah University gymnastics hosted a watch party of the NCAA’s selection show on March 20 to discover they will be traveling to Los Angeles for regionals. Fresh off locking down the title of Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference champions on March 18, the Flippin’ Birds will take with them many conference awards.
SUU dominated in the conference all season, leading them to more titles than just MRGC champions. Graduate student Karley McClain racked up recognition, including the prestigious Gymnast of the Year award. Her outstanding performances won her two spots on the First-Team All-MRGC in both the all-around and the floor. Her talent on the floor was so impressive that she was named Floor Specialist of the Year. On the bars and beam, McClain also secured Second-Team honors.
More Flippin’ Birds piled up First-Team All-MRGC honors, with at least one in each event. Sophomore Ellie Cacciola landed a spot on beam and freshman Kayla Pardue jumped to the occasion for the vault. Also snatching spots on the First-Team All-MRGC, junior Aubri Schwartze made her mark on the floor and graduate student Shylen Murakami earned her honors on the bars. Junior Hailey Vultaggio stole a spot on the Second-Team All-MRGC floor team to round out the decoration of Thunderbird gymnasts.
Coaching skills were recognized as well, with SUU’s incredible staff acquiring both awards. Coach Scott Bauman’s phenomenal accomplishments with the program won him the title of 2023 MRGC Coach of the Year, and coach Jamie Wysong was awarded 2023 MRGC Assistant Coach of the Year for her leadership to the floor and vault teams.
Sneak peak at regionals
The University of California, Los Angeles will host the Flippin’ Birds’ run at regionals, although SUU won’t face the Bruins’ side of the bracket on their first day of performance. Southern Utah’s fellow MRGC competitors will duel for the fourth time this season on March 29 to determine who wins the final spot in round two.
The University of Utah, Auburn University, and the University of Washington will compete with SUU on March 30 at 3 p.m. MDT. Utah has been on fire, pinning themselves as the No. 1 beam squad in the nation. It would take a huge off day for the Utes to lose, so the Flippin’ Birds will set their sights on outperforming the No. 12-seeded Auburn Tigers and the No. 27-ranked Washington Huskies.
If SUU can outscore two of the three teams, they’ll slide through to the Los Angeles Regional Final on April 1. All NCAA postseason meets can be viewed on ESPN+.
Story by: Kale Nelson
Photo courtesy of Anden Garfield
Graphic courtesy of NCAA