Aggie gymnasts starting season with big goals

LOGAN – The offseason is over for Utah State gymnastics. The team will host Air Force in the first meet of the season Friday night in the Spectrum. Second-year head coach Nadalie Walsh led the Aggies to its first regional championship in seven years, but believes they can do even better. She said the saying this year is “Do it again. Do it better.”

“Hopefully that even though they had a lot of success last year we’re not going to ride on that success,” Walsh said. “We want to make sure that we’re making small improvements everywhere across the board. All of those little things are going to add up to big improvements on the team.”

The girls on the team are catching on to what Walsh is doing. This is the first year that senior Sarah Landes has had the same set of coaches as the previous year. She said the program is changing and becoming something better.

“It’s nice to be at the start of it and know that we’re building something that is going to be great,” she said.

According to junior Destiny Ezell and senior Breyanna Aufiero, the goal is to place in the top two in the regional championships, which would send the Aggies to nationals.

“That’s a big goal for all of us,” Ezell said. “If we can accomplish that I think it will make everybody want it one step more.”

One thing the Aggies have going for them is a lot of returning experience. According to Walsh, most of the team she coached last year is back and others who had to sit out due to injuries are now healthy. She said the healthy competitors didn’t forget what they learned and the one’s who were injured will only add to the strength of the team.

“Last year I had to figure out who was a competitor,” she said. “It was my first year with these athletes out on the floor. So this year all of those question marks and those holes of missing information aren’t there because we have so many returners who are actually contributors.”

According to Aufiero, except for a couple new freshman, most of the lineups have stayed the same.

“It’s just the same thing as last year,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of improvements since then. We’re just kind of perfecting the little stuff.”

All the returning experience means most the athletes on this year’s team have been around each other for a while. Walsh said that has contributed to making team unity their biggest strength.

“In a sport like gymnastics, where it’s a team sport, but you’re doing an individual performance, you’re able to feel the absence of your team if they don’t support you,” she said. “We don’t have that problem. The girls always feel like they have this really strong force behind them when they go out to compete.”

Ezell said a lot of that unity was built outside of the gym, by just hanging out and playing games with each other, in their apartments and around campus.

“Even when we are on break we want to be together,” Ezell said. “When some of us were at home for Christmas break other girls went and visited. We definitely love being around each other.”

Friday’s meet with Air Force will be the first of five home meets and will start at 7 p.m. The Aggies have an 11-1-0 record all-time against the Falcons.

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