Mary Frances Bir and her Boise State gymnastics teammates were sick of being close.
The program has had continuous success for years, placing in the final NCAA Top 25 every season since 2008. Last season, Shani Remme made the NCAA Championships as an individual in the balance beam.
But a team trip to nationals has eluded Boise State. Now Bir, Remme and the rest of the Broncos plan to do something about it.
“We’re tired of not making it,” said Bir, who competes in the vault and floor. “We’re like, ‘No, this is going to happen.’”
The No. 10 Broncos (7-4, 3-0) have been ranked as high as No. 7 this year and face No. 22 Utah State at 7 p.m. Thursday in Taco Bell Arena. The rest of the schedule includes No. 7 Denver at Taco Bell Arena on March 10, the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference finals March 18 in Logan, Utah, and the NCAA regional qualifier April 1.
The success Boise State is having began in the summer when team members decided to stay on campus for three months rather than spend their breaks at home. Bir, a junior from Huntington Beach, Calif., exchanged the beach for blue gym mats.
Sophomore Sarah Means thinks the summer strategy is making a big difference this season.
“We basically had everyone here over the summer and working out extra and doing the things to get us there. And I think this year, we have a great shot,’’ she said.
Senior Diana Mejia is ranked 13th nationally in uneven bars and Remme, a sophomore, is 20th in the all-around. Means is 27th in the balance beam and Bir is 31st in the vault.
As a team, Boise State is ranked sixth in the uneven bars, 13th in the balance beam and vault, and 25th in floor.
“We’re all extremely passionate about the sport, which helps. In the past, they’ve been passionate, but I think we’re taking it extremely seriously,” Bir said. “We don’t let anything stand in our way.”
In addition to extra work and motivation, the Broncos credit this year’s success to team chemistry. Whether it’s spending time studying together (their 3.86 fall semester GPA was the highest for a team in school history) or doing crafts, the athletes are a tight group.
That sort of bond can’t be overstated, according to Means.
“We’re very united. We actually feel like a team,” she said. “It’s very important, especially in college. In high school, it’s more individualized. You qualify individually. But in college … it’s a bigger success if you go to nationals as a team than individually. ... I’ve never had friends like I do with these girls at Boise.’’
That team camaraderie and support was on full display last week in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The Broncos traveled to No. 6 Alabama and took the Crimson Tide to the brink, losing 196.925-196.675. Competing against a national power like Alabama was a boost for a group that is building its confidence each week.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise. We all see it in the gym every single day,” Bir said. “We all know we’re super talented and can compete with those big teams. It’s whether we do it in the moment. I think we should be up there, and I’m glad we’re getting those scores.”
No. 22 Utah State at No. 10 Boise State
- When: 7 p.m. Thursday
- Where: Taco Bell Arena
- Pink Meet: Fans wearing pink can purchase tickets for $3. Cancer survivors will be honored with flowers during introductions. There will be post-meet autograph opportunities for fans.