LOGAN, Utah – Utah State’s gymnastics team held its first official practice of the 2020-21 campaign on Monday at the team’s practice facility located inside the HPER building.
The Aggies return 17 gymnasts from last year’s team that went 7-6-1 overall, marking the first time since 1999 that USU ended the season with a winning record. The 2020 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, the gymnasts were separated into a morning practice session and an afternoon practice session.
“It was great to see everyone in the gym today for the first official day of practice for the 2021 season,” said fourth-year head coach Amy Smith, who garnered Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference (MRGC) Coach of the Year accolades last season. “It is really nice to get that component of normalcy back that, I think, we all have been looking for.
“It was also great to hear their laughter and we have not skipped a beat on the funny banter in the gym. I am excited to get this team going, because I am so fired up at what they can do this year. We realize how fortunate we are to be back in the gym doing what we love.”
Smith coached the MRGC Gymnast and Freshman of the Year in Autumn DeHarde and Sullivan a year ago. DeHarde also earned MRGC Co-Beam and Co-Floor Specialist of the Year accolades, and was named to the first team on both events. Sofi Sullivan shared the MRGC Co-Beam Specialist of the Year award with DeHarde, and also earned first-team honors on the event, as well as a first-team citation in the all-around.
Under Smith’s tutelage, Leighton Varnadore earned second-team honors on vault and in the all-around.
DeHarde and Varnadore are one of six seniors on the roster, along with Annie Beck, Taylor Dittmar, Mikaela Meyer and Logan Varnadore.
“I was just super excited to get back in the gym and be with all the girls, and be with the freshmen and see what they can do,” Dittmar said. “It’s just exciting to have all the energy back in the gym and see great gymnastics.”
Last season, DeHarde averaged 9.889 on beam, which ranks first all-time in single-season school history. She tied for first in the MRGC and tied for 27th in the nation with a 9.895 NQS on beam. DeHarde had a career-high 9.950 on beam, which is tied for second all-time in school history, at the Boise State quad meet.
Furthermore, DeHarde tied for first in the MRGC and tied for 43rd nationally with a 9.895 NQS on floor. She averaged 9.883 on the event, which ranks second all-time in single-season school history. The native of Sussex, Wis., recorded a career-high 9.950 on floor against BYU, which is tied for third all-time in school history.
“Our first day of official practice went really well,” DeHarde said. “I was so glad to be back in the gym and training again. With everything going on in the world, obviously things are different, but our team is very adaptable to those changes and we are going to have a great year because of that.”
The Aggies also bring back juniors Carley Bayles and Grace Rojas, along with sophomores Lexi Aragon, Emma Cobabe, Maia Fishwick, Morgan Gill, Jessica Gutierrez, Hadley Hamar, Tori Loomis, Sullivan, Ariel Toomey and Rebecca Wells.
Sullivan tied for first in the MRGC and tied for 27th in the nation with her 9.895 NQS on beam last year. She captured her first-career beam title with a school-record 9.975 at Air Force, which also ranks second all-time in MRGC history. The native of Manhattan Beach, Calif., also had a 9.950 on beam, which is tied for second all-time in school history, at the Boise State quad meet. Sullivan averaged 9.883 on beam, which ranks second all-time in single-season school history.
Utah State welcomes seven newcomers to the team this year in freshmen Mikelle Ballard, Olivia Blakely, Brianna Brooks, Lara Burhans, Eve Jackson and Angel Stuart, along with junior Anique Grenier, who transferred from Southern Utah.
Before the 2020 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Aggies were ranked 29th in the nation with a National Qualifying Score (NQS) of 195.915 – the highest in school history – and were poised to advance to the NCAA Regional Championships for the first time since 2017.
Utah State defeated every MRGC rival in 2020, snapping a 22-meet losing streak to Boise State (dating back to 2012), a nine-meet losing streak to BYU (dating back to 2017) and a five-meet losing streak to Southern Utah (dating back to 2018) this season.
The Aggies led the MRGC and ranked 19th nationally on beam with a 49.105 NQS. USU recorded the best beam score in school history with a 49.575 at the Boise State quad meet.
Utah State averaged 49.039 on beam, which set the single-season school record. The Aggies averaged 48.875 on vault (third all-time in single-season school history), 48.756 on bars (tied for sixth) and 48.992 on floor (fifth).
USU recorded the second- (196.800), fourth- (196.600) and fifth-best (196.525) team scores in school history last season, and the 196.600 against No. 17 BYU and the 196.525 against No. 20 Southern Utah are the second- and third-best home scores in school history. The 196.800 at the Boise State quad meet ranks second all-time for an away meet.
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