After losing three gymnasts he thought he'd have for what is still a promising season, Utah State coach Ray Corn says he has a stomach full of butterflies as the Aggies prepare to open 1993 at 2 p.m. today at Denver University. "But at least they're flying in formation," Corn reports.
That's because the 12 athletes Corn has are accomplished gymnasts. "For the first time," Corn says, "we will have really big bars, really big beam and big floor."Where once the Aggies were capable of scoring a few 9.65-9.7s but started with 9.3s from the early competitors, now Corn says the first people up in the rotation should start out at 9.5s. He bases the assumption on results of a number of intra-squad meets that were judged by officials from several areas of the state and beyond.
Today at DU, the Aggies will get their scores for real. Even though the Aggies have fared well against the Pioneers at home and on neutral floors, they are 1-5 and haven't won at Denver since 1978.
"It will be a good opening test for my young team," Corn says of a squad that includes two juniors, five sophomores and five freshmen.
The meet will be televised on a delayed basis (Sunday, 8:30 p.m.) in the Logan area by the Valley Channel (cable). "That blows me away," says Corn of the TV attention.
Corn adds, "Everyone is on fire here regarding athletics with (new athletic director) Chuck Bell coming in," and the gymnastics team is likewise.
The biggest problem for Corn is an unusual one for him - vault. The Aggies used to vault well and try to hang on in other events, but now it's the opposite, mainly because they lost their potential top three vaulters. Australian Olympian Kylie Shadbolt, who'd signed to attend USU, instead retired after Barcelona because her body was too beaten up. Utahn Jacque Butler, who was also to be a freshman, got married and left the campus. Kim Johnson, a 9.75-9.8 vaulter last season, went on an LDS mission and made the announcement too late for Corn to replace her.
He still has one Australian Olympian, freshman Jane Warrilow, who missed making the Barcelona all-around finals by one or two places. She's nursing an ankle injury that keeps her from vaulting and all-around now but should eventually be one of the Aggies' best.
Corn expects junior Haley Houtchens and sophomores Tricia Yamamoto, Heidi Love and Tonja Ockaskis to be his all-arounders.
Other squad members are junior Lori Loudner, sophomore Stacey Lynn and freshmen Rebecca Dunkley (redshirt), Krista Forster, Jessica Neenan, Chesea Nilsen and Summer Oveson.
He says in early meets, all the Aggies will be used as much as possible to gain experience. With a smaller squad than usual, he'll go "painstakingly slower" than in the past to conserve health for March's postseason meets.
The Aggies will host the NCAA Midwest Regional on April 3.