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BYU gymnastics: Cougars bid farewell to seniors

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PROVO — The BYU Cougars are saying goodbye to four gymnasts after completing their 2008 season at regional competition and scoring a fifth-place 194.325 at Penn State University.

The top two teams went on to compete at Nationals, but the Cougars went home, and four of them started preparing for life without intensive training.

"At 24, my body is not what it used to be," said one of those seniors, all-around competitor Alethea Boon. She's happy to be giving her body a break from the constant pressure and training it's had to endure for the past 18 years. But she's not planning to just sit around, she wants to try out new avenues of physical training that she hasn't been able to pursue in the past.

"When you're doing gymnastics, you can't wait until you're free to go play, (but) finishing gymnastics is forcing me to get out of my comfort zone," she added.

Those sentiments are shared by her fellow seniors Dayna Smart-Allen, Kylee Draper-Marvin and Aimee Walker-Pond.

Boon posted a 38.950 in the all-around and a 9.85 on the vault in the final meet of her senior season, finishing ninth of all the gymnasts in the regional in the all-around competition.

Smart-Allen posted a 9.825 on the beam to finish off her career at BYU. The gymnast came out of Brighton High School and led the Cougars for four years on three of the four events in many meets for BYU.

Draper-Marvin recorded 9.8 on both the bars, her favorite event, and the beam. She's been competing for the Cougars on the bars since her freshman year out of Payson High School.

Walker-Pond, a bars specialist who is deaf and blind in one eye, was out for the season with a shoulder injury but used her leadership skills and emotions to help the Cougars all year long.

Now, BYU must look to new leaders and bring along the young gymnasts to prepare for a long season next year.

"You don't ever replace them, you just have to go on without them, and then the young gymnasts become your seniors," said BYU coach Brad Cattermole.

One of those new seniors will be solid competitor Hayley Jensen, whom Cattermole is hoping to count on heavily. Several young competitors that tumbled on either one or two events for the Cougars this season will also be counted on for more help in the coming season.

Danielle Goldman, Kiki Berrett, Megan Donehue, Brittany Fischer, Kaylee Gallup, Melissa Hough, Madeleine Johnson, Heidi Poulson-Rasmussen and McKell Poulson will still work by committee to lead the Cougars.

Cattermole is also hoping for the return of redshirt freshman Jessica Villegas out of Gilbert, Ariz., who is recovering from elbow surgery from an injury she suffered prior to the season.

Villegas was the Level 10 state champion in 2004 in Arizona and qualified for Junior Olympic Nationals in 2007.

Cattermole was looking forward to the gymnast competing all-around for his team this season, but now is happy to have her here for the next four years and is keeping his fingers crossed as usual that his gymnasts survive the off-season and head into next year relatively injury free.

E-mail: jolsen@desnews.com