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USU gymnastics: Utah State opens home slate against San JosÉ State and Sacramento State

Utah State gymnast Elle Golison (back center) celebrates with teammate Emily Briones (front center) after Briones completed her beam routine last Saturday at Bowling Green.
Utah State gymnast Elle Golison (back center) celebrates with teammate Emily Briones (front center) after Briones completed her beam routine last Saturday at Bowling Green.
Wade Denniston, USU Athletic Media Relations

Utah State’s gymnastics team opens its 2018 home slate against San José State and Sacramento State on Friday at 7 p.m., at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

The tri-meet featuring the Aggies (0-1, 0-0 MRGC), Spartans (2-2, 0-0 MPSF) and Hornets (0-5, 0-0 MPSF) will be streamed live on the Mountain West Network as a USU Athletics Production. Additionally, live stats will be available online, and meet updates will be provided through the team’s social media outlets.

“I am thrilled to come home and put a meet together,” said first-year head coach Amy Smith. “We had three good events last week at Bowling Green and now we are looking forward to having four on Friday. They need to come in and mean business and realize that they have a job to do. I am looking for them to do that.”

Utah State is 32-15 all-time in home openers, a record that takes several multi-team meets into account. Friday marks Smith’s home debut as head coach of the Aggies. USU has won four-consecutive home-opening meets and is 5-0 during that stretch.

“I am really excited to be at home and see the Utah State fans and put a meet together,” Smith said.

Friday is the first of two meetings between the Aggies and Hornets. Sacramento State will join Utah State in Davis, California, on Feb. 9, for a tri-meet hosted by UC Davis.

“We are super excited to be back at home,” junior gymnast Emily Briones said. “There is just something about being at home in the Spectrum that gets everybody pumped and excited. I’m really excited for the freshmen to experience it, and I haven’t competed there in about a year, so it will be fun.”

One of those freshmen who will be competing in the Spectrum for the first time is Mikaela Meyer, a native of Myersville, Maryland.

“I’m really excited to be in front of our home crowd,” Meyer said. “I’ve heard there is a lot of energy, the meets are loud and they are fun. That is what I am most looking forward to.”

Briones missed the majority of last season due to a torn Achilles suffered at New Hampshire. Last week at Bowling Green, Briones placed third on beam with a 9.825.

“It is so hard being on the sidelines watching your team, but they did so well last year and it motivated me to work hard this summer for rehab and this past fall,” Briones said. “I am most looking forward to the energy of Friday night and winning.”

The Hornets lead the all-time series with the Aggies, 15-9. Utah State also trails San José State in the all-time series, 16-15.

The Aggies enter Friday’s tri-meet ranked 49th nationally and eighth in the North Central Region with an average score of 192.975. As a team, the Aggies are tied for 31st in the nation on vault (48.725), 64th on bars (46.950), tied for 22nd on beam (48.800) and tied for 42nd on floor (48.500). Individually, freshman Autumn DeHarde is tied for 14th nationally on beam (9.875), while junior Madison Ward is tied for 20th on floor (9.875) and tied for 30th on vault (9.850).

San José State is ranked 29th in the nation and seventh in the West Region with an average score of 194.475. As a team, the Spartans are tied for 44th in the nation on vault (48.475) and tied for 14th on floor (48.975). They also rank 27th on bars (48.675) and 36th on beam (48.350). Individually, Kaitlin Won is tied for 14th nationally on bars (9.875) and tied for 41st in the all-around (39.000). Kaprece Nadonza is tied for 31st on bars (9.850), while Taylor Chan is tied for 20th on floor (9.875).

Sacramento State is ranked 53rd nationally and ninth in the West Region with an average score of 192.188. As a team, the Hornets are tied for 58th nationally on vault (48.025), while ranking 42nd on bars (48.263), 47th on beam (48.038) and 61st on floor (47.863). Individually, Annie Juarez is tied for 98th nationally on vault (9.775).

Utah State officially kicked off the 2018 season with a 194.825-192.975 loss at Bowling Green on Jan. 13, in front of 800 fans at Anderson Arena in Bowling Green, Ohio. Despite the setback, the Aggies garnered four individual event titles and the all-around crown. Ward nabbed two of those event titles, bringing her career total to 14. The native of Rexburg, Idaho, won the floor title with a 9.875 and captured the vault title with a career-high-tying 9.850.

“We started out rough on bars, so if we dial in and everybody hits their routines like they do in practice, then we will be better,” Meyer said. “We picked it up a lot starting with vault and continuing it throughout the rest of the meet and finished strong.”

Utah State heads back out on the road next week to take on former MRGC-rival Denver on Saturday, Jan. 27, at Magness Arena in Denver, Colorado. The meet is slated to begin at 6 p.m.