Small but fierce, the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference has made a name for itself in the past few seasons with lots of personality and strong individual contenders. Boise State in particular has been in the nationals conversation a few times recently, and BYU surprised everyone last season by finishing No. 17 and coming just 0.450 short of qualifying to NCAAs. Will this year be the time an MRGC team makes it to the big dance?
The potential lineups series is back to discuss teams’ prospects for the 2019 season. However, it has a bit of a new look: less body, more straight-forward analysis yet all the same great information you’ve come to know and love.
No. 16 Boise State Broncos
On the brink of a nationals bid for a few seasons now, the Broncos lost some key routines from their 2018 graduating class. Boise State’s best bet for success in 2019 is to utilize its depth as it has in the past and continue to develop its underclassmen who haven’t contributed as much in the past.
|Losses:||Mary Frances Bir (VT, FX), Sandra Collantes (UB, BB, FX), Ann Stockwell (VT, UB, FX), Abby Webb (FX)|
|Gains:||Tessa DePasquale, Hope Masiado, Dani Shafer, Samantha Smith, Alexis Stokes|
Losing two strong contenders on vault, Boise State has significant ground to make up. It looks as though the Broncos may have direct replacements for their outgoing vaulters, as freshmen Dani Shafer and Samantha Smith compete the exact same vaults: a handspring pike half and a Yurchenko one and a half. As far as supporting options, Alexis Stokes and Hope Masiado have clean fulls to add to the list. Sophomores Sarah Means and Tatum Bruden are also options, though depending on cleanliness, they could lose their presumed spots despite Means’ 10.0 SV.
Potential Contributors: Courtney McGregor (9.830 RQS), Shani Remme (9.815), Tatum Bruden (9.765), Sarah Means (9.710), Rachel Obmann, Tessa Otuafi, Dani Shafer, Samantha Smith, Alexis Stokes, Hope Masiado
Boise State will see a few losses on bars, but the team still retains its strongest scorers. Filling in the supporting roles will likely be Stokes and Masiado, each with different strengths in their sets. Smith could also contribute, though she’ll need either a single-bar release or another D transition before her difficulty is up to the level. Bars is also Tessa DePasquale’s best event, but even so she’ll likely remain a backup with all the depth Boise State has. Returners Means and Emily Muhlenhaupt weren’t mainstays last season, but they’ll need to be to bolster their team’s presence on the event. Waiting in the wings will be occasional contributors Gabriella Bouza and Maddi Nilson, though neither is guaranteed a spot by any means.
Potential Contributors: Shani Remme (9.895), Courtney McGregor (9.880), Emily Muhlenhaupt (9.820), Sarah Means (9.795), Gabriella Bouza, Maddi Nilson, Alexis Stokes, Hope Masiado, Samantha Smith, Tessa DePasquale
Beam was admittedly the weakest event for Boise State in 2018 and the only event where it ranked outside the top 20, scoring under 49 in more than half of its regular season meets. Improved consistency can turn that around this year, and its best bet of the newcomers is Stokes. Secure and clean, her greatest strength is her adaptability: She has many options for how to construct her set, as well as a backup series if things get shaky. Masiado’s attention to detail and finesse make her a strong contender, and Smith has a few unique skills (pullover mount, anyone?) that could be real eye-catchers. Not to be forgotten, Alex Esmerian is back for her redshirt year to bolster the beam squad’s numbers.
Potential Contributors: Shani Remme (9.900), Sarah Means (9.860), Alex Esmerian (9.820), Courtney McGregor (9.800), Gabriella Bouza, Isabella Amado, Tatum Bruden, Alexis Stokes, Hope Masiado, Samantha Smith
A highlight for Boise State last season, floor will see the biggest losses from the departing class. The Broncos only return three who competed floor last season, and Esmerian only has one competitive floor score, albeit a good one. The freshmen need to step up in a major way, though some returners could also help out. Masiado is a solid twister and Stokes trained a double layout in the past, but neither is in any position to do the heavy lifting when it comes to scores. Means previously competed floor, though not in 2018, but if she were able to return, it could be a major life saver for her team’s floor prospects. And while they never materialized in 2018, Rachel Obmann and Tatum Bruden showed promising tumbling last preseason. If they’re ready, the floor picture could really change for the Broncos.
Potential Contributors: Shani Remme (9.915), Courtney McGregor (9.825), Alex Esmerian, Hope Masiado, Alexis Stokes, Sarah Means, Rachel Obmann, Tatum Bruden
Overall, Boise State still has the best chance of any team in the conference of winning the MRGC title and even advancing to nationals. However, its strengths will significantly shift this season with more depth and experience on vault and bars than beam or floor. Adjustments will need to be made and expectations exceeded if anyone but Remme or McGregor is going to see Fort Worth in April.
No. 17 BYU Cougars
BYU has been more well-known for its wacky leotards and cool floor routines than its gymnastics success recently, but in 2018, the Cougars stepped up and made a name for themselves again. Reaching a strong score for second place at the conference championship, BYU ended the regular season ranked No. 21. With a strong regionals score, the Cougars ended up just shy of nationals and finished the season at No. 17. Their long roster ensures plenty of depth, but can they use it to push even higher in 2019?
|Lost||Mackenzie Douglas (VT, FX), Kyleigh Greenlief (FX), Lauren Love (medical retirement), Jill van Mierlo (AA), Brittni Wilde Hawes (UB)|
|Gained||Rachel Bain, Rebekah Bean, Lexi Griffith, Gabrielle Hubbard, Ashley Kernan, Alexis Mather, Sadie Miner, Adeline Rieder, Michelle Sandoval|
|Returning from Injury||Melanie Lockhart (knee injury)|
Though vault was not a strong apparatus for BYU last year, 2019 may be different. Sophomore Avery Bennett actually ranked No. 4 in the conference, and a number of newcomers should be able to support the solid returning lineup. Sadie Miner stands out in particular, bringing a Yurchenko one and a half that’s capable of strong scores. Lexi Griffith also competed a one and a half, though her vault of choice varied over the last few seasons. Rachel Bain has a clean full that will likely serve as a backup option if she’s not needed in the main lineup.
Potential Contributors: Avery Bennett (9.850 RQS), Angel Zhong (9.815), Shannon Hortman Evans (9.815), Abbey Miner (9.770), Jordan Danbury, Haley Pitou, Abby Boden, Hannah Miller, Sadie Miner, Lexi Griffith, Rachel Bain
Bars steadily improved for the Cougars last year, as they didn’t start off well but finished the regular season with a season-high of 49.425. They do lose some ground with Brittni Wilde Hawes graduating, but with a good depth pool and the addition of strong freshman bar workers—not to mention the return of all-American Shannon Hortman Evans—they will be in good shape. Ashley Kernan and Alexis Mather are the frontrunners for the bar lineup in the incoming class, with Kernan sporting multiple releases, including a pak and a piked Jaeger, and cleanliness being Mather’s strength. Sadie Miner’s consistency could make her a good backup option, but she’ll need to clean up her leg form significantly if she is to crack the top six.
Potential Contributors: Shannon Hortman Evans (9.890), Haley Pitou (9.840), Abby Boden (9.830), Angel Zhong (9.790), Natasha Trejo Marsh (9.760), Ashley Kernan, Alexis Mather, Sadie Miner
Beam was a bit of a roller coaster for BYU in 2018, jumping from 47.550 to 49.325 in one week and scoring everywhere in between throughout the season. Many returning Cougars have competition experience, but the freshmen will also be strong contenders. Griffith’s precision and presence make a strong case for her inclusion, but she’ll need to work on consistency before she earns a spot. Rebekah Bean has a unique set of skills, including a cool switch leap to front tuck she debuted at J.O. nationals this year. The set could make her a crowd favorite. Mather and Michelle Sandoval both compete triple acro series, a mark of confidence judges and fans love to see on the event.
Potential Contributors: Natasha Trejo Marsh (9.870), Abby Boden (9.855), Shannon Hortman Evans (9.825), Briana Pearson (9.790), Hannah Miller (9.770), Cheyenne Hill (9.745), Angel Zhong, Helody Cyrenne, Lexi Griffith, Rebekah Bean, Alexis Mather, Michelle Sandoval
BYU’s strongest event last season should again be a highlight in 2019. Sadie Miner will lead that effort with her charisma and powerful double layout. Bean will also be a contender, as she has clean, high tumbling and a true star quality in her performance. Griffith’s strength is her twisting, including a front double full that adds to BYU’s growing arsenal of E passes. Mather and Adeline Rieder could also contend, but they’ll likely be backup options for the time being.
Potential Contributors: Shannon Hortman Evans (9.895), Briana Pearson (9.845), Abbey Miner (9.840), Natasha Trejo Marsh (9.670), Hannah Miller, Sadie Miner, Rebekah Bean, Lexi Griffith, Alexis Mather, Adeline Rieder
Overall, BYU’s outlook for the coming year is promising with the opportunity to improve upon last year’s achievements. Depth is the Cougars’ biggest asset, so they need to use it to their advantage to get the best results.
No. 35 Southern Utah Thunderbirds
After finishing 2017 at No. 22 overall, many thought Southern Utah would continue its success in 2018. Instead, inconsistency and injuries to key competitors pushed the Thunderbirds down to No. 35 overall. While its losses are numerous, Southern Utah won’t lose many significant routines and is poised for a rebound year.
|Lost||McKenna Burnside (retired/left team), Julianna Dahlke (medical retirement), Amber Heltemes, Amanda Wiltsie (medical retirement), Emily Wilson (medical retirement), Kirsten Yee (UB, BB)|
|Gained||Mayson Bentley, Sydney Birch, Caitlin Kho, Karley McClain, Shylen Murakami, Rachel Smith, Stephanie Tervort|
|Returning from Injury||Morgan Alfaro (VT, unknown injury), Megan McBride (VT, unknown leg/foot injury)|
The Thunderbirds return all of 2018’s regular competitors. Plus, returning Morgan Alfaro and Megan McBride from injury as well as freshmen should give Southern Utah much needed depth. Freshman Caitlin Kho is a strong contender to make the top six because of her Yurchenko one and a half, and classmate Emma Wissman performs the same vault in tuck position, making her a viable option as well. Rachel Smith boasts a more unique vault, performing a Yurchenko full-on pike that will be an asset for the Thunderbirds as well. Not to be discounted by their classmates, Karley McClain and Shylen Murakami both perform clean fulls that could trump potentially messier or lower-scoring 10.0 start values.
Potential Contributors: Megan McBride (9.855 RQS), Autumn Jorgensen (9.810), Madison McBride (9.795), Molly Jozwiakowski (9.790), Morgan Alfaro (9.785), Karen Gonzalez (9.750), Madison Loomis, Caitlin Kho, Emma Wissman, Rachel Smith, Karley McClain, Shylen Murakami
Southern Utah has potential on bars thanks to a strong incoming class. However, many of its gymnasts were inconsistent in 2018, so they will have to prove their consistency to keep their spots. McClain’s lines make her a joy to watch on the event, and she brings the skills too, dismounting with a double layout. Murakami has clean lines as well—she’s not flashy on the event, but her jaeger and full-twisting double tuck dismount both have good height. Kho is another solid option with the Maloney to pak routine composition we’ve become accustomed to seeing in college gymnastics. Finally, Smith could factor into the equation; she dismounts with a full-twisting double layout, a relative rarity in NCAA.
Potential Contributors: Madison Howlett (9.835), Becky Rosza (9.840), Madison McBride (9.800), Autumn Jorgensen (9.790), Karen Gonzalez, Hannah Nipp, Karley McClain, Shylen Murakami, Rachel Smith, Caitlin Kho
An inconsistent event for the Thunderbirds in 2018, the freshmen paired with the return of Karen Gonzalez for a fifth year will help stabilize the beam lineup. Murakami is a solid option, boasting a fabulous Onodi we hope stays in her routine in college. Wissman has clean lines and unique connections, such as a front toss into a back handspring layout instead of the typical front aerial combination. McClain isn’t flashy, but she’s a solid option and likely a needed one given the Southern Utah consistency situation. Smith is training a unique round-off layout step-out series, so watch for her on the event if she can be consistent.
Potential Contributors: Autumn Jorgensen (9.865), Hannah Nipp (9.810), Mary Packham (9.810), Karen Gonzalez (9.800), Alyssa LaDieu (9.800), Shylen Murakami, Emma Wissman, Karley McClain, Rachel Smith
Perhaps one of the most consistent events for Southern Utah in 2018, floor looks to be a strength for the Thunderbirds once again. McClain and Murakami are the two most likely freshmen to fill holes in a lineup that returns four regular competitors. Neither have flashy routines, but both are clean and consistent options for the lineup. Gonzalez returning helps as well, especially with the team now losing McKenna Burnside to medical retirement. Madison Loomis competed enough to have an RQS in 2018, albeit not a great one, but don’t be surprised to see her crack the lineup at some point. Plus, Hannah Nipp scored well in the times she was in the lineup, so watch for her as well.
Potential Contributors: Autumn Jorgensen (9.885), Madison McBride (9.865), Karen Gonzalez (9.845), Molly Jozwiakowski (9.835), Madison Loomis (9.645), Megan McBride, Hannah Nipp, Shylen Murakami, Karley McClain
Overall, Southern Utah is poised for a rebound season. With a stellar class of freshmen and Gonzalez returning for a fifth year, the Thunderbirds could shake things up in the MRGC in 2019.
No. 37 Utah State Aggies
Hovering around the top 36 for the past five seasons, Utah State narrowly missed regionals in 2018, ending the season at No. 37 in head coach Amy Smith’s first season. With few losses, will the Aggies find themselves a spot in the newly redesigned regionals in 2019?
|Lost||Jazmyn Estrella (transfer to Temple), Keri Peel|
|Gained||Carley Bayles, Caitlin Gray, Maddie Straker, Glory Yoakum, Bonnie Ziegenfielder|
|Returning from Injury||Logan Nugent (leg injury)|
The Aggies retain all six regular vaulters from 2018. With the addition of freshmen to the mix, they’re poised to be a stronger vault squad in 2019. Of the freshmen, Canadian Maddie Straker is the strongest, boasting three different vaults: a front handspring tuck, the typical Yurchenko full and a front handspring pike half. Caitlin Gray, Grace Rojas and Glory Yoakum will be in the mix as well, all performing solid fulls. They’ll be competing with the lower scoring returners like Autumn DeHarde and MaKayla Bullitt.
Potential Contributors: Mikaela Meyer (9.840), Madison Ward (9.840), Faith Leary (9.790), Elle Golison (9.745),, Autumn DeHarde (9.720), MaKayla Bullitt (9.670), Leighton Varnadore, Maddie Straker, Grace Rojas, Caitlin Gray, Glory Yoakum
An inconsistent event for the Aggies in 2018, the team will rely on its young roster gaining experience and its influx of freshmen on the event. Rojas is pristine on bars, featuring pretty lines, clean form and a unique composition that includes a toe-on to Maloney to bail handstand, as well as a double layout. Straker is also solid on the event where she brings a unique skill of her own in a toe-on pike half dismount. Yoakum’s Li Ya (straddled Jaeger to half turn catch in mixed grip) should make her a showstopper on bars while Gray is another possible contributor.
Potential Contributors: Brittany Jeppesen (9.810), Madison Ward (9.805), Leighton Varnadore (9.765), MaKayla Bullitt (9.765), Mikaela Meyer (9.535), Annie Beck, Logan Varnadore, Grace Rojas, Maddie Straker, Glory Yoakum, Caitlin Gray
A strength for Utah State in 2018—the team qualified two gymnasts to regionals on the event in DeHarde and Emily Briones—the Aggies return six consistent competitors in 2019. The freshmen won’t disappoint on beam either, so the Aggies will have depth to play with to create the strongest and most consistent lineup. Straker will lead the way with a variety of unique skills from her elite routine, Yoakum brings a solid college-esque routine to the table, as does Rojas. Carley Bayles is most likely to contribute, with a secure routine that features an L turn.
Potential Contributors: Autumn DeHarde (9.875), Emily Briones (9.845), Taylor Dittmar (9.830), Leighton Varnadore (9.810), Elle Golison (9.765), Annie Beck (9.620), Madison Ward, McKinley Pavicic, Maddie Straker, Glory Yoakum, Grace Rojas, Carley Bayles
The team returns all of its consistent floor competitors, helping to continue its success on the event from 2018. The Aggies will appreciate Straker’s double layout, which should make her a lineup staple. Yoakum has a clean routine featuring a full-twisting double tuck, and Rojas is known for her cleanliness and could factor in if the team needs a consistent competitor in both hit percentage and score. It will be a tough lineup for the newcomers to break into, but if anyone can do it it’s Straker and Yoakum. They’ll likely be gunning for the lower-scoring returners’ spots, such as Elle Golison and Mikaela Meyer.
Potential Contributors: Madison Ward (9.890), Autumn DeHarde (9.880), Faith Leary (9.865), Leighton Varnadore (9.780), Emily Briones (9.770), Elle Golison (9.760), Mikaela Meyer (9.745), Maddie Straker, Grace Rojas, Glory Yoakum
As a young team losing relatively few routines from 2018, the Aggies are poised to improve on 2018’s results. With the new regionals format, the team will have to work hard to ensure it makes it to regionals in 2019 and even harder to ensure it won’t be competing in a play-in position.
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Article by Caroline Medley and Tara Graeve
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