Last season was a success for the Boise State gymnastics team, minus its No. 1 goal.
After posting an 18-2 record, and returning seven all-conference honorees, could this finally be the year the Broncos reach the NCAA Championships?
The Broncos were 0.175 points behind Cal for a berth to the NCAAs last year. They finished third at regionals for the fourth time in eight years, one spot out of nationals. It has been a driving factor.
“There are some things you can’t control, but we’re out there trying to get one-tenth better on landings or handstands, and that’s helped keep us motivated to know that improvement is the difference,” senior Diana Mejia said.
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Boise State lost some key contributors but also added Olympians Courtney McGregor from New Zealand and Isabella Amado from Panama. Shani Remme reached the NCAAs as an individual on the beam last year as a freshman.
“Our lineups are eight, nine athletes deep fighting for six spots in each event. I think that competition just makes everyone better,” co-head coach Neil Resnick said. “Each year we do well, we can recruit better, and I think we’ve been able to do that.”
After knocking off preseason No. 11 Stanford, UC Davis and Yale in a quadrangular road meet last week, the Broncos (preseason No. 15) have confidence heading into a meet Friday in Salt Lake City that includes No. 5 Utah and No. 7 Denver.
The home opener is Jan. 27 against BYU at CenturyLink Arena.
“Being able to compete with some of the best teams, with about a third of their budgets, it takes a lot of heart,” co-head coach Tina Bird said. “They’re self-propelled, which is exciting for us, where we want them to be.”
ATHLETES TO WATCH
Sandra Collantes, Jr.: The Peru native was a second-team All-American on floor as a sophomore and a first-team All-Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference selection in the all-around. She tied for first on the balance beam Friday in the first meet of the season.
“Everyone on this team has kind of helped push me to be better, instead of it seeming like I have everything figured out,” Collantes said. “It makes it more exciting for me.”
Mejia: The team captain was first-team All-MRGC on the uneven bars as a junior and started the season strong with a 9.9 on Friday. She was named the MRGC specialist of the week.
“I feel like the mom of the herd. Kind of been there, done that. So it’s kind of my job to keep everyone calm, still have fun and enjoy what we can accomplish,” Mejia said.
The Broncos knew there would be growing pains this season, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
Coming off a 3-9 record last season that led to longtime coach Greg Randall’s ouster, Boise State lost All-American Geo Martinez to transfer and have just two seniors on the roster. Boise State is 1-4 in duals this season, losing three this month by a combined 102-22.
“I definitely expected ups and downs, but with the coaches and guys we brought in, we’ve kept it headed in a positive direction,” senior Austin Dewey said. “There’s a lot of tough guys on this team.”
First-year coach Mike Mendoza has 13 true or redshirt freshmen on the roster, and he said the rough transition has spurred younger wrestlers to step up their roles. Last week, instead of the coaches giving a pep talk, they left the room and let the athletes hash it out.
“We have a thin roster. At some weights, we have only one guy. Didn’t necessarily expect it to be so dire,” Mendoza said. “What we’ve seen is guys just pouring it all out on the mat, and we have to continue responding, getting better each day.”
To the Broncos, hitting a low point means up is the only way to go.
“It’s been a sour taste, but it’s something we pull from every day,” redshirt freshman Fred Green said.
Next up for the Broncos is a home match at noon Saturday at Bronco Gym against Mendoza’s former team, Cal State Bakersfield.
ATHLETES TO WATCH
Dewey: The Centennial High grad has a 19-10 record at 174 pounds and is looking to finish strong after falling a win short of the NCAA Tournament last year.
“I hope I’ve been a good figure in the room in terms of my work ethic,” Dewey said. “... Hopefully I can help be a part of this program getting better. It’s been a fun year, feeling good.”
Fred Green, Fr.: Green has been a spark after redshirting last season, going 15-13 with a team-best eight pins at 157 pounds — tied for tops in the Pac-12, where Boise State competes. He has two wins over ranked foes.
“It’s not where I thought I’d be. Thought maybe I’d play a little part and build up from there,” Green said. “It feels good to be doing it early in my career. Still hope for that movie scene where I go out on top. I like being a leader-type of guy. I was school president, so it fits.”
INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
Boise State’s distance and middle distance runners train, at most, once a week at their home track in Nampa. They often train at Dona Larsen Park near campus, where two lanes of the track are cleared of snow.
“I said to a recruit this fall that I’ve never had to use my shovel,” fourth-year coach Corey Ihmels said. “But if anything, maybe it just makes us tougher.”
Once again, the Broncos’ distance runners should be a strength, including All-Americans Brenna Peloquin and Allie Ostrander. After redshirting the cross country season, Ostrander has an indoor redshirt available, but Ihmels said she is healthy, though she has yet to compete.
In the first event of 2017 at the Ed Jacoby Invitational in Nampa last weekend, the Broncos won the men’s and women’s pole vault, the men’s 400 meters, the men’s mile, and the women’s 800, 1,000, mile and 3,000. Boise State’s women are ranked No. 20 nationally.
“The way the weather’s been, off of break, you kind of expected the worst. But it was a good start,” Ihmels said. “... We put a focus on the distances, but I think we have some quality in a lot of different events.”
Boise State hosts the Bronco Invitational at the Jacksons Indoor Track on Saturday in Nampa.
ATHLETES TO WATCH
Sadi Henderson, So.: At home, Henderson has note cards posted that read “2:06,” serving as constant reminders of a big goal. She beat that Saturday in Nampa, breaking the school record in the 800 meters with a time of 2:05.71. It was the fourth fastest indoor time in Mountain West history.
“That was my goal for two years, so going home that night and putting up a new number was so great,” Henderson said. “I was hoping for big things this season, but maybe not so soon. It made me realize if I work for what I want, I can achieve it. So it’s really exciting.”
Yusuke Uchikoshi, Jr.: Coming off a successful cross country season in which he won the Mountain West title, Uchikoshi won the mile and took second in the 800 last weekend. He arrived on campus from Japan during last year’s winter break, so he feels more comfortable entering this indoor season.
“I didn’t train very much before (indoor) last year because I was so busy studying, trying to make sure I can come to school,” Uchikoshi said. “My fitness was really bad, so after cross country, I feel a lot better this year.”