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USU gymnastics: Utah State heads south to face No. 16 Southern Utah

SHARE USU gymnastics: Utah State heads south to face No. 16 Southern Utah

Utah State’s gymnastics team, fresh off a satisfying home victory over BYU, is back on the road this weekend as the Aggies travel south down I-15 to take on in-state rival and 16th-ranked Southern Utah in Cedar City. The dual meet is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m., inside Centrum Arena.

Utah State (5-2, 2-0 Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference) is 2-1 in dual meets this season, including last Friday’s 195.850-194.850 victory over the Cougars. SUU (3-1, 0-1 MRGC) comes into the meet fresh off a 196.700-196.500 victory over Denver on Monday night. The Thunderbirds’ team score was a school record.

“Competing at SUU is always challenging and fun,” said fourth-year head coach Nadalie Walsh. “They have a good crowd who is very loyal to their Thunderbirds. We are prepared to be heckled a little bit and the girls are fine with that. Both of our teams have good momentum from our previous meets, so it will be a tight and tough competition. We want to be the team with less mistakes so we can earn a victory, but most importantly, I want the Aggies to walk away knowing we did our best and have no regrets.”

Friday’s meet, which is being streamed live, is the beginning of a difficult stretch for Utah State.

The Aggies will host No. 8 Boise State on Feb. 17, then make the return trip to face the Broncos on March 2. Sandwiched in between those two meets is a visit to No. 5 UCLA for a tri-meet on Feb. 20, followed by a trip to No. 20 Nebraska for a quad-meet on Feb. 20, which also features No. 15 California. In a chart on RoadtoNationals.com, Utah State’s 2017 schedule ranks as the 12th-toughest in the nation.

As for Friday’s meet, the Aggies are seeking their first win in Cedar City since the 2014 campaign, Walsh’s first year at the helm of the program.

USU, which is tied for 32nd in the nation, and SUU are competing against one another for the 90th time on Friday in what is the Aggies’ fourth-oldest rivalry. Utah State leads the all-time series, 45-44, including a 15-17 mark on the road.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun to compete against another conference team and the arena at SUU has a lot of energy, which makes it that much more fun,” said senior Hayley Sanzotti. “We just need to build off of last week and stay in it together as a team. Everyone needs to go out there and win their routine and not focus on what SUU is doing.”

In the Aggies’ victory over the Cougars last Friday, Utah State’s team score of 195.850 was a season high. Additionally, USU set season highs on vault (48.975), bars (49.025) and floor (49.200).

Along with being ranked 16th in the country, the Thunderbirds are 12th nationally on vault (49.056), 13th on bars (48.981), 26th on beam (48.631) and 11th on floor (49.075). SUU’s Danielle Ramirez ranks 13th nationally in the all-around (39.369), 17th on beam (9.869) and tied for 30th on floor (9.869).

“We are looking forward to competing against someone else in our conference this weekend,” said senior Keri Peel. “SUU is another in-state rival that brings out our best performances, especially in their arena. It’s full of energy and requires mental focus that we prepared for in practice. We are excited to capitalize on the performance we had at home last week against BYU.”

Madison Ward leads the Aggies as she is tops in the MRGC and is tied for 27th nationally on floor (9.870). The sophomore from Rexburg, Idaho, has recorded three-straight personal-best 9.900s on the event and has won the floor title in each of the Aggies’ first five meets. She has won seven titles overall this season and finished in the top three eight times.

Freshman Elle Golison has also finished in the top three eight times on the year, including three second-place finishes and five third-place finishes.