Aggie Senior gymnasts prepare for one more night of magic

For four years its been their rock – the great love of their daily college experience. Through bumps and bruises, injuries and tears, Lyndsie Boone and Jackie Dillon have weathered the storm of major NCAA gymnastics competition, and once more, they’ve done it with grace, skill and even a bit of flair for the dramatic. Through it all, they’ve grown to love the school they’ve represented, forged lifelong bonds with their teammates and brought admiring gazes and roaring applause to the farthest corners of Utah State’s Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. On Friday evening, Boone and Dillon will rub their hands in the chalk on the floor of the Spectrum for one last night, as Utah State (1-12, 0-4 WAC) hosts Cal State Fullerton (0-5, 0-3 WAC) on Senior Night. For Boone and Dillion, the two lone Aggie seniors, the meet is the culmination of a four year love affair with the mat and the bars and a love story which they know they’ll soon miss.”It’s going to be sad, last time competing in the Spectrum,” said Boone, a native of Winthrop Harbor, Ill. “That’s all I’ve done the last four years. It’s been my job, gymnastics. Competing in the Spectrum is just amazing. All our fans support us, and I’m really going to miss that.”Dillon, a native of Anderson, S.C. agreed, saying, “It’s crazy. I’m excited but it’s kind of scary at the same time. You have to get out in the real world, but I’m excited for this home meet.”The two seniors have been among the Aggies’ most consistent performers during the course of their careers, not only enduring staff changes and team attrition, but also battling through personal injury. They have been “survivors” in one of the most physically demanding collegiate sports and have seen six of the gymnasts who came in with them as freshmen either have to leave the program or redshirt because of injury. “It’s crazy,” said Dillon when looking back on where she and the team have come over the last four years. “We always figured we’d be the one class to make it all the way through, but that didn’t happen.”What did happen was success, even amidst struggles with injuries, including an ankle injury which derailed a significant portion of Dillon’s junior campaign. She fought through it, however, and managed to finish the season strong and qualify for the NCAA Regional meet on the bars. This year she’s been instrumental in helping the Aggies to their No. 45 ranking, and is currently sixth in the WAC and 12th in the region with a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) of 38.145 RQS and 38.225 average score in all-around competition. Once more, she’s assumed a leadership role for the Aggies, and impressed third-year head coach Jeff Richards with her upbeat attitude and helping hand.”Some of the girls, they’ll get on bars and say ‘I know the bars are a little bit shaky,’” Richards explained. “But she’s like, ‘bars are bars, and you get up and do it.’ That’s what your seniors are supposed to do, those little things that you don’t hear. The one that I happened to hear, she gave a great answer.”That both Boone and Dillon have developed into leaders for Utah State is no small accomplishment in its own right. After experiencing a coaching change during the summer of 2008, the ranks of the Aggie gymnasts were decimated with few models to follow for the up-and-coming sophomores. Richards explained that it was trial and error for Boone and Dillion, whose complimentary styles as eccentric motivator and leader by example have propelled the program to something of a rebirth.”Over the past few years they’ve really developed that (leadership) with the help of the coaches and had to figure it out themselves without that leadership on the team,” Richards said. “They’ve done a good job. This year, I’ve been really impressed with what they’ve done.”Sophomore Amanda Watamaniuk has been especially influenced by the two seniors, whom she said helped her overcome a feeling of being overwhelm as a freshman in 2010.”I turned to them for literally everything last year,” said Watamaniuk. “Last year if I was ever lost I would turn to them and be like ‘hey Jackie,’ or ‘yo Lindsey I don’t know what I’m doing, can you just help me out?’ They were always like super nice and getting me help. You can always count on them for everything.”Boone hasn’t just been a leader though; she’s been arguably the most successful Aggie gymnast of the last four years. Not only has she qualified in at least one event for Regionals in all of her seasons as an Aggie, but she’s been a two time Academic all-WAC selection. Even with her performances during the sports’ brightest stages and strong academic record, however, Boone’s teammates and coaches say that it’s her flair and energy which they’ll miss the most following her graduation.”She’s very comfortable with herself,” Richards said, laughing. “She’s not afraid to act goofy and do funny stuff and do a little outrageous stuff. She definitely catches you off-guard.”Among Boone’s more infamous routines during practice is her singing. Described as “Cher-esque” by one of her teammates, the senior’s vivacious serenades are one “x-factor” of practice which Watamaniuk will be sorry to see leave.”I’m really going to miss Lindsey signing,” Watamaniuk said, giggling. “She sings a lot in the gym. Usually it’s Mariah Carey with really high notes. She sings it out; it’s beautiful.”Boone said she’ll miss a lot about her time in the gym and at Utah State, including the scenery of the valley and the bonds with her teammates. She’s grown to love the skyline and the mountains surrounding Utah, as well as pregame hair design sessions with Dillon. Yet after a particularly challenging struggle with injuries as a senior, there’s at least one element of college gymnastics she’s happy to see pass by. “I’m feeling very old right about now,” Boone said, laughing. “With your body, it does take a toll on you.”With the roller coaster of their college gymnastics experience pulling into the final turn, the leaders and survivors of the Aggie program will now look to bring magic to the floor of the Spectrum for one final night. And in a sport known for tears of both joy and pain, the ones shed on Friday night will almost certainly be of the former.”I love Utah State,” Boone said. “It was definitely an adjustment getting used to, but now, thinking about leaving it; it’s really sad. I’m definitely going to miss it. I going to miss the scenery, the girls, the coaches, everything.”-USU-

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