For the second consecutive year, No. 12 BYU earned the title as Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference Champions, notching a 196.925 for the winning tally in Logan, Utah, on Saturday.
Trailing BYU in a closely contested championship, No. 19 Boise State came in second (196.725), followed by No. 21 Utah State (196.250) and No. 20 Southern Utah University (196.225).
“It was definitely a fight,” head coach Guard Young said. “We fought for every tenth. When we had a mistake, I was really proud of the girls coming after them because they didn’t let it rattle them. I think that’s the mark of a veteran team and girls who have competed for four years. They know how to handle that.”
Highlights included the Cougars sweeping the MRGC accolades. The conference honored head coach Guard Young as Coach of the Year, Natalie Broekman as Assistant Coach of the Year and senior Abbey Miner-Alder as Gymnast of the Year.
“Abbey is not in the all-around every meet, but when she is, she rocks it,” Young said. “She was the highest-ranked all-arounder for the conference. I think it was deserved. Natalie is my right-hand. I couldn’t do it without her. This goes beyond coaching. This is everything she is doing behind the scenes. She helps recruit and is a mom to these girls. She puts her heart and soul into it.”
Additionally, junior Brittney Vitkauskas and Alder shared the title as Co-Specialists of the Year on floor.
The Cougars started on vault, earning a 49.125. Junior Rachel Bain-Heaton matched her career-high score of 9.800. Senior Avery Bennett followed with a 9.850. As the anchor, senior Abbey Miner-Alder topped her former career high of 9.875 and celebrated a 9.900 on vault for the first time. Heading into the second rotation, Utah State led with a 49.175 with BYU sitting in the third slot.
All four schools headed into the second rotation with a score of 49.025 or higher. On bars, BYU came in hot when senior Angel Zhong started the lineup with a new career-high score of 9.875. Leading the pack, freshman Anyssa Alvarado and senior Abby Boden-Stainton notched scores of 9.900. A solid tally of 49.325 propelled the Cougars from third to first place at the halfway point. This knocked Utah State to second, trailing BYU by .200.
BYU held onto its lead after achieving a 49.050 on beam. A few imbalances and a fall resulted in a few low scores for the Cougars. However, freshman Sophia McClelland, Alder and Stainton all pulled off scores of 9.850. BYU built a 147.500 score heading into the final rotation. After an impressive score of 49.300 on floor, Boise State moved up to second, trailing the Cougars by only .100.
BYU never faltered on floor, as each gymnast scored a 9.800 or higher. Seniors Jordan Danbury-Matthews, Bennett and Stainton all achieved a 9.850. Ranked No. 1 in the conference on the apparatus, junior Brittney Vitkauskas and Alder led the way with scores of 9.925 and 9.950, respectively. This high score would win Alder the event title for the night. BYU fought to the end, grabbing its second-highest floor score of the season, a 49.425.
Up next, the Cougars will compete in the NCAA National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships.
“I don’t have the final rankings, but I think we will be a seeded team,” Young said. “We had our moment tonight, but now we need to put in another two hard weeks of training for the NCAA tournament. It’s fun going in as a seeded team this year. That’s a goal we are going to have every year.”
Seedings and details for the championships will be announced on Monday.