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Late start for Y. gymnasts

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Less time and more people to want to use it.

That's BYU's women's gymnastics team as it opens the 2002 season tonight at 8 MST at Oregon State University, which has an uncharacteristic 0-2 mark.

It's kind of a late start for the Cougars, and coach Brad Cattermole isn't sure he likes that idea, though it couldn't be helped. On the good side, he says his athletes are itching to get going and tired of practicing instead of feeling like they're not ready to go, as in other years.

BYU has had a practice meet, Jan. 12 in the Bahamas, an invitational held in a hotel ballroom, with ballroom lighting that meant parts of the apparatus was in light and part in shadow. BYU counted eight falls, yet Cattermole was encouraged by most of what he saw. "I'm thinking I'm sounding a whole lot cheerier than I usually do," Cattermole said.

The Cougs have been in the gym since then, correcting the little mistakes they made in the dark in the Bahamas, and that should be a plus for tonight's meet.

Also kind of new for Cattermole is that he actually has extra barworkers this season. Several times in the past few seasons, he's had to go with only five athletes on bars - five count, but six are allowed per event - because that's all he had. Now, he has a choice.

He'd like to be even deeper in the always-dangerous beam lineup, but he has athletes capable of scoring 9.8 who won't make the competition lineup, so depth is good.

And a sophomore named Megan Shupe is on the way to really strengthening Cougar vaulting. She was convinced to come out of a physical education course and join the team because coaches could see so much ability in her vaults - more powerful even than those Kim Little used to throw. She's "a natural, a vault phenom," the coach says.

All of this leaves him in a different mode. "Gosh, dang. Who am I going to put up?" Cattermole says in jest. "It's a whole new feeling. I have to actually put thought into the lineup."

This veteran BYU team - Kelly Parkinson-Evanson is back for her fourth season to lead 14 returnees and three freshmen - is a "mentally solid, business-like type of team. That could change tomorrow, but they're very professional in their approach," Cattermole says. Jeni Lopez joins Parkinson-Evanson as an all-arounder. Mindi Hilton is back after missing most of the last two years with injuries, and Angie Hickman is looking good on floor and vault. Freshman Jaime Mabrey "is a big surprise. We're looking for big things from her," Cattermole said.

Cougar fans will soon be able to keep up on the Internet with the team. BYU gymnastics will have its own Web page up and running in a week or so, www.byugymnastics.com, which will have chats with the athletes, video and other interactive features.