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USU gymnastics: Utah State heads to Arkansas and Chicago this weekend

Utah State’s gymnastics team concludes the regular season with a pair of non-conference dual meets on the road this weekend.

The Aggies (6-7) first head to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where they will compete against No. 11 Arkansas (6-5) on Friday, March 11, at 6 p.m. MT, at Barnhill Arena. Two days later, Utah State pays a visit to the Windy City and squares off against Illinois-Chicago (5-8) on Sunday, March 13, at 1 p.m. MT, at the UIC Pavilion.

“I want the team to be really calm and confident in themselves, so they can do what they’ve done in the last couple of meets,” third-year Utah State head coach Nadalie Walsh said. “At this point in the season, there is really nothing they can do but what they’ve been doing. I expect them to be really excited when we go to Arkansas because they get to compete against an SEC opponent and that’s not something that is intimidating for them. They are going to capitalize on the opportunity and hopefully, get some good road scores.”

In the Aggies’ last two meets, they set a season-high score of 196.025 in a home tri-meet against BYU and New Hampshire, then followed that up by recording a season-high road score of 195.750 at Nebraska.

Furthermore, Utah State has produced its top-two bars scores of the season in the last two meets with a 49.250 and 49.200, respectively.

“There is a tremendous amount of trust built between the coaches and the athletes,” Walsh said. “Each girl that is out there competing, everyone else trusts them completely and that makes for a really great environment.”

The Razorbacks have won three-consecutive dual meets heading into Friday’s competition, which is Senior Night for Arkansas. The Razorbacks are led by junior Amanda Wellick, who ranks 14th in the nation in the all-around with a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 39.385. She is also tied for ninth nationally on vault with an RQS of 9.900.

Wellick hails from the same hometown as Utah State junior Hayley Sanzotti. Both are natives of Wheaton, Illinois. However, Sanzotti was a graduate of Wheaton North High School and competed at the Illinois Gymnastics Institute, while Wellick attended Wheaton Warrenville South High School and performed for Legacy Elite Gymnastics Club.

Utah State’s meet against Illinois-Chicago will be a homecoming of sorts for Sanzotti and sophomore Melanie Oster, who grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which is a little more than an hour drive away from Chicago.

“We’re going to have a lot of fan support at that meet,” Walsh said.

Sunday’s meet will be unique in the sense that UIC’s men’s gymnastics team will also be competing at home against Arizona State.

“It will be interesting,” Walsh said. “That will be fun for the girls since it’s something that is a little bit different. These two meets will be really good for us because we end on beam and then when we go to conference, we end on beam, as well. The girls are going to be well prepared and well practiced for going into the conference meet.”

The 2016 MRGC Championships will be hosted by Boise State and held at Taco Bell Arena on Saturday, March 19, at 6 p.m. Tickets for the meet can be purchased by calling the Boise State ticket office at (208) 426-4737 or by visiting their website.