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Schedule an advantage for Cougars

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It wasn't supposed to be a back-to-back weekend for BYU's 22nd-ranked gymnastics team this week.

The Cougars are at third-ranked Utah with No. 13 Arkansas and No. 39 Southern Utah on Friday night at 7, and then host No. 48 Boise State in the Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday at noon.

"It was intended to be Friday-Monday, but we had some switcheroos that had to happen," said Cougar coach Brad Cattermole. "But I thought, if we're in the Super Six (NCAA Championships at Utah on April 26-28), you have to compete back-to-back anyway, so get used to it."

The 4-2 Cougars are coming off their season-best score of 195.475 at Utah State on Jan. 23. That's 10 days without a meet and then two meets in 17 hours. There's another longer-than-usual break in late February, as the Cougars go from Feb. 17 to Feb. 26 between meets.

Cattermole kind of likes that idea. This break has given his young team — nine freshmen — more training time after learning what it needs to work on in the first few meets, and the one in late February should do the same. When there's a meet every week, there's really only two full days to practice, and spreading out some of the meets gives time for more repetitions.

Because BYU did not do as well as expected last postseason, finishing last at the NCAA North Central Regional, Cattermole has tried to change a few things.

The Cougars have done more strength training this season. The result is a team that looks more fit and should be able to handle late-season fatigue better, Cattermole hopes.

UPSIDE HEAD: Another very young team — six freshmen — will be on display Friday night in Utah's Huntsman Center at 7. Southern Utah started the season with a bang, scoring 194.075 in a home win over Sacramento State.

Coach Scott Bauman's thought was, "I don't know if that's a good sign," he said this week, adding his team "got a little cocky."

"The last two meets have hit them upside the head like a two-by-four," he said of the 188.625 SUU scored in losing at Michigan and the 190.575 it scored in placing second in a quad meet at Cal State Fullerton. The score at Michigan was the all-time low in Bauman's 16 seasons at SUU. The last two meets have seen 22 T-bird falls, he said.

Still, the T-birds are a team Bauman likes very much because of work habit and great intelligence. The winners of some nine gym-team national academic championships just had its highest GPA ever last semester, approaching 3.8.

"They'll be fine; I know it," Bauman said, certain that when his club hits, it will score in the 195-plus range. "They're all fixable things. When we hit, I like what I'm seeing."

OUCH: In fall 2005, Bauman had surgery to insert three cadaver cervical vertebrae after a spotting accident. Then he crashed while boogie boarding last summer and had to have surgery for a torn rotator cuff and labrum, but he said he's feeling better now.

MATURING: BYU's Cattermole sees his large freshman class growing up. "All of a sudden I'm not seeing the freshmen act like freshmen," he said. "They're competing more like they've got a clue."

He does wonder how they'll do at Utah, where there will be 10,000-12,000 in the crowd.

"If they'll just compete and not look around, they'll do fine," he said.

E-mail: lham@desnews.com