No. 15 BYU at No. 28 Boise State

Welcome to the Battle of the MRGC heavyweights! (For the uninitiated, the MRGC is four team conference of respectably ranked teams that most people think are either in the Pac-12 or Big Ten: BYU, Boise State, Southern Utah and Utah State.)

While both teams are coming off season high performances last week, BYU’s 197.075 against Southern Utah is its highest total since 2004 and solidifies its status as the MRGC team to beat. However, you can never count out Boise State. Despite securing a season high team score and its first win in 2020, head coach Tina Bird noted that she doesn’t believe the scores “truly reflected our performance.”

This is a sneaky-significant meet: BYU has spent the last decade climbing its way back into the top 20 since bottoming out at 50th in 2009; it’s currently ranked first in the MRGC and 15th nationally. Boise State—after a lackluster start and a season-ending injury to leading scorer Courtney McGregor—finds itself third in the conference, an unfamiliar position for a team that’s led the MRGC since its inception in 2014. This match-up will either formalize a changing of the guard or reestablish the old world order. 

Hmm… Right now we’re just seeing gymnasts walking around in warm-up leos  and a fish-eye lens view of the commentators. Hopefully, we’ll see some actual gymnastics soon. 

Okay, NO NO NO! When I said I hoped we’d see some gymnastics soon, I did NOT mean show a replay of Courtney McGregor’s season-ending vault. Come on… 

Now they’ve shifted to a weirdly repetitious montage of black and white pics of Tina Bird. CGN bringing the important NCAA gymnastics content you want, folks. 

Rotation One: Boise State vault, BYU bars

Apologies, I’m having some issues with the stream freezing and missed several routines. 

Beeston (BYU): Clear hip to handstand, nice. Geinger with some leg sep to bail. Good last handstand. Pikey DLO with a hop back. 9.650

Otuafi (BSU):  Yurchenko half, flipped really close to the vault. 9.775

Alvarado (BYU): Nice low bar handstand. Maloney with some leg sep, very nice Pak. Overarches the half pirouette. Slight pike on the DLO, but a stick. 9.825

Bouza (BSU): Yurchenko full, nice position in the air if not a ton of amplitude. Good landing, tiniest step forward. 9.850 

Cyrenne (BYU): Her usual straddle after the Maloney. Good bail. Some feet and pike on the DLO with a hop back. 9.800

Smith (BSU): Yurchenko full, a little arched then piked to compensate, large slidey step back on the landing. 9.700

Pitou (BYU): Blind change to straddled Jaeger, good (a touch close). Overarches the handstand but brings it back. Good bail to handstand. Really lovely FTDT, stick. 9.900

Bruden (BSU): Yurchenko full with great distance and power, but a little pike/chest down and huge hop back. 9.700 is too high (especially compared to Smith’s) 

Stainton (BYU): Short on the first handstand. Good blind change to piked Jaeger. Stream freeze… Good height on the FTDT, small foot shuffle. 9.850

AFTER ONE: BYU 49.025, Boise State 48.775

Both teams got the benefit of the doubt on a couple of those scores, but more-or-less what the event totals should be (at least in the same neighborhood). I know vault isn’t Boise State’s strongest event, but they’ve got to strike a balance between “practically landing on top of the table” and “landing off the mat.” BYU’s bars didn’t look quite as sharp as we’ve seen in recent weeks, but a serviceable rotation with no major breaks. 

Rotation Two: Boise State bars, BYU vault

Yay, McGregor’s there on her knee scooter cheering her team on!

Mathews (BYU): Excellent Yurchenko half with a minor (Miner?) hop to the side. Great height and distance, perfect body position. 9.850

Bouza (BSU): Stream came in at the end. Nice DLO, slightly closed hips, and a hop back. 9.850

Pitou (BYU): Yurchenko full with a pike down and hop back. 9.825 

Bruden (BSU): blind change to straddled Jaeger, really close catch. Good handstand position on bail. Very piked DLO with a hop back. 9.725

S. Miner (BYU): Yurchenko 1.5 with a hop forward. Twisted slightly early 9.850

Masiado (BSU): Pretty Tkatchev. Floats the Pak then overarches her pirouette. Well done double tuck dismount with a few shuffles. She gets the stick pile driver (?) anyway. 9.725

Bennett (BYU): Yurchenko half on, tuck off with a hop back. Fun vault. 9.800

Nilson (BSU): Beautiful first handstand. High Tkatchev, good bail. Good final handstand. Good position on the DLO despite not getting tons of height, hop back. 9.725

A. Miner (BYU): Powerful Yurchenko 1.5 with a couple of hops back. 9.800

Muhlenhaupt (BSU): Blind change to textbook straddled Jaeger to bail. Lovely handstand positions throughout. DLO virtually stuck (looks like a scoot in replay). 9.925

Evans (BYU): A little short on her Yurchenko half, has to take a step back. Really nice body position and flare out, though. 9.800

AFTER TWO: BYU 98.150, Boise State 97.725

My main takeaway so far is that there isn’t enough differentiation between scores. Le sigh. BYU’s vault variety remains a lot of fun to watch, and they performed well. Their blocks and form in the air really stand out. Meanwhile, Boise State continues to impress with their five-gymnast bars lineup; not only where there no disasters, they put up five very good routines (three of which scored 9.725, but I digress…).

Rotation Three: Boise State beam, BYU floor

Bouza (BSU): Straddle mount to scorpion, lovely. Bhs loso, comes off. Cat leap to front toss, solid. Switch split to split, well done. Full turn with a slight hip check. Front aerial to beat, again a well-covered check. Gainer pike with a step bike. Bummer about the fall. So much good stuff in there otherwise. 9.175

Stainton (BYU): Round-off to double pike, well done. I don’t have sound, so this choreo out of context is amazing and awkward. full to Barani to split jump, some soft knees. Switch split to switch full, good enough. Nice round-off double tuck to finish, love the pointed toes in the first salto. 9.725

Popp (BSU): Front aerial, some knees but solid. Switch half, well done. Bhs bhs layout, very powerful. Cat leap to straddle quarter, slightly off horizontal but 180. Bhs bhs 1.5 with a hop. Great way to bounce back. 9.700

Vitkauskas (BYU): Front double twist to open, one of the better I’ve seen her do. Front full to front lay, excellent. Hitch kick, fun. Switch side to Popa, good. Sassy hip pops. Punch Rudi to finish. One of the cleaner and more precise routines she’s done. 9.825

Elkabachi (BSU): Scorpion. Really pretty full turn. Bhs loso that she rebounded from and somehow stayed on. Cat leap to side aerial with a leg up; again, what a save. A little shy on her switch split leap, but good straddle quarter. Really good Barani. Straddle half, well done. One and a half dismount with a nervous-looking step. She held it together well. 9.400

S. Miner (BYU): Her usual big ol’ DLO with some Miner leg sep and soft knees. Bounces out of a high double pike (hand maybe slipped?). Switch full to wolf full (a little low) to Shushunova half. Front full front lay front pike, springy and well-controlled. 9.800

Masiado (BSU): Cool L turn from kneeling. Bhs loso, slight hip check covered well. Switch split to switch half with a low back leg. Side aerial *pause* tucked full with a hop back. Overall, nice routine. 9.650

Pearson (BYU): Painful-looking landing on a not-quite front double full. Switch ring very short. Fhs Rudi good, but a little muscled. One and a half to front lay, easily her best pass. 9.750

Amado (BSU): Bhs bhs lay-pike hybrid. Aggressive switch split to straddle quarter, slightly shy. Front aerial with a little hip check. Love her high kick. STUCK one and a half with some leg form. Nice routine, but 9.900 is generous

A. Miner (BYU): Solid DLO to open. Good amplitude on her switch full series. Didn’t get a great punch from her one and a half, so front lay was kind of crunched. Very nice double pike and Simone butt-bounce to finish. 9.850 

Muhlenhaupt (BSU): Lovely bhs loso, great extension. Kicks out of her full turn. Switch split to split to sheep, well done (small hip check after the sheep). Side aerial that she finesses out of. One and a half with a tiny hop. 9.875

Evans (BYU): Double pike with chest down, but stuck. Floaty front lay to front full. Switch full to wolf full, nice positions. This choreo is even more amazing and awkward without music. Feed hung up. Looks like she got stalled on the double tuck and had to take some steps on the landing. 9.800

AFTER THREE: BYU 147.175, Boise State 146.250

Props to Boise State for salvaging a decent 48.525 on beam after a rough start. The precision just wasn’t quite there tonight (whether that’s a result of nerves or technique, I’m not sure), leading to lots of wasted tenths. BYU was fine on floor; I’ve seen them look better and I’ve seen them look worse. Glad to see Evans back in the rotation. 

Rotation Four: Boise State floor, BYU beam

Mather (BYU): Hitch kick to side aerial to beat jump, good. Bhs loso with a big bilateral hip check, but saves it. Switch split with a stutter, straddle quarter. May not get the connection credited. Cartwheel gainer full stuck. Solid start for the Cougs. 9.725

Smith (BSU): Pretty double pike to start. Really nice dance, love her carriage. One and a half front lay, well done. Switch full to Popa, good position. Really tight double tuck, lands crunched and has to stumble out of it. 9.500

A. Miner (BYU): Nice split jump. Balks her acro series, I think? Hitch kick to front toss to bhs, no problem. Beat to switch 3/4; cheats it a little and doesn’t quite hit 180. Carthweel to stuck gainer full, nicely done. 9.825

Elkabachi (BSU): A little out of control on her two and a half; maybe went OOB? Great amplitude on her switch side to Popa, but a little off horizontal. Double pike, chest low and has to take a step. One and a half to front lay, stutters into the lunge, but pretty body position in the air. 9.550

Cyrenne (BYU): Bhs loso, way off and she hops down. Switch split to switch half to wolf, feet on all three. Long prep before a gainer pike. Goes up on her toes but stays in place. 9.300 is too high (even with a fall)

Nilson (BSU): Fhs Rudi, a little bouncy but stays in bounds. Switch half to Popa to straight jump full, good. One and a half to front lay, has to bend the knees to stand it up. Low double pike and has to take a step forward. 9.525

Stainton (BYU): Front toss, well done. Over-rotates the full turn. Switch split to split quarter with a leg-up check. Some soft knees, but sticks the one and a half dismount cold. 9.750

Amado (BSU): Pretty double tuck. Dynamic switch ring to switch half, very nice. Ha, she’s doing the Mustang. One and a half to front lay, good. Stuck double pike to finish. Maybe the best floor tonight. 9.775 feels low. 

S. Miner (BYU): Bhs loso, no problems. Switch split to straddle quarter, great positions. Hitch kick to side aerial, excellent; I like that she finishes every position. Another soft-legged but stuck one and a half. Great routine. 9.850

Bruden (BSU): Slides out of a powerful double pike. Switch ring to switch side, perfect positions. Missed the second pass but now she’s doing the Funky Chicken; I approve. Very nice double tuck to close. 9.850

Evans (BYU): Fab bhs loso. Hitch kick to front toss with a big hip check. Switch split to straddle quarter, well done. Bhs one and a half with a hop to the side. 9.775

Popp (BSU): HUGE double pike, tons of hang time. Switch half to Popa, good positions. Off on the one and a half and she sits a front tuck, ugh. Short on the double tuck and bounces forward. Too bad. 

AFTER FOUR: BYU 196.100, Boise State 194.450

Tough floor rotation for the Mustangs. Honestly, they looked gassed, just couldn’t seem to find any sort of momentum. Again, BYU didn’t look as sharp on beam as we’ve seen them this season, but staved off disaster after an early-rotation fall. They’ll happily take a well-earned 196 away score and official status as The Team to Beat in the MRGC. 

Article by Claire BIllman 

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