By Allie Jeppson
Photo credit: Randy Golding
Two of Utah State University’s gymnasts have proven their talent as some of the youngest athletes on campus.
During the NCAA Salt Lake City Regional Championships hosted by the University of Utah on April 7, gymnasts Sarah Landes, a freshman, and sophomore Paige Jones placed in the top 20 in the all-around category. Landes, who finished in 12th place overall with a score of 38.325, was one of the top two all-around competitors. “I had no expectations coming into college,” Landes said. “Making it to regionals is a huge thing.”
Jones, who competed in the Regional Championships last year, brought home a score of 35.400, finishing in 20th place. “I got the opportunity to go last year and I’m glad to go again,” Jones said. “I feel like I can do different things this year.” Senior Rebecca Holliday, who also competed and finished 16th (38.125) overall, agreed. “I’m excited for where the team is going to go,” Holliday said. “[Landes and Jones] are both really good examples for the team and for athletics in general; they’re stand-out athletes.”
For these two young gymnasts, this has proven to be true throughout the entire season. Between January 30 and March 12, the USU gymnastics team has made an overwhelming presence in the Utah State Student-Athlete of the Week award, winning four times. In just four weeks, Freshman Sarah Landes was honored three times, first for the week of January 30 and then consecutively on Feb. 13 and 20. During time, Landes, originally from Edmond, Okla., won two events against Sacramento State, leading the gymnastics team to its first WAC win and dual victory of the season. Landes won the all-around with a score of 39.050 and tied for first place on floor scoring 9.850. During that same meet she also placed second on the beam with a score of 9.775. “She’s a very talented kid,” Coach Jeff Richards said. “She had some challenges coming in but she’s done an incredible job…and we’re excited for her.”
Jones also spent a week in March as the Student Athlete of the Week. A native to Smithville, Mo., the 5-foot-4 athlete in March was chosen for the award after winning six titles during the week. She took home two all-around crowns in meets against Southern Utah University and Brigham Young University. Jones tied for first on vault with a 9.825, won floor with a career-high score of 9.850, which lead to the win of the all-around with a 38.975 against the Thunderbirds. Jones was equally successful against BYU as she took top honors in the all-around, scoring yet another career-best of 39.200 and 9.700 on beams. She also won titles in vault and bars, in which she scored 9.850 for both events. “She’s been really good at being a leader,” Holliday said. “With Paige, she’s done great and she’s only going to get better.” Richards remarked that both girls have very important roles on the team as leaders. “The leadership this year was so much better and we learned so much more,” he said.
Though each has had their own personal obstacles to overcome such as injuries, confidence, and team leadership, Landes and Jones are looking to the future and setting goals for themselves. “For this year I had a goal to be confident and remain consistent throughout the season,” Jones said. “And I think I did a pretty good job with that.”
In the future, Jones hopes to reach her goal of becoming first team all-WAC next year. This consists of placing top three in the all-around event. Making it to nationals is another personal goal Jones holds.
Landes hopes to do the same. “One major personal goal for me … is to be all-American,” Landes said. In order to accomplish this goal, Landes must not only make it to nationals, but place in the top 12 in all-around. “It’s really hard to do … but I think I can do it,” Landes said.
“We have made incredible strides this year,” Richards said. “It’s a lot of fun just to see them push themselves in this way. They have really raised their expectation level.”