The Little Team that Could: Boise State Broncos Rise to the Occasion

By Caroline Medley
On a chilly Monday in February, the Boise State Broncos were on the bus home from Denver after scoring their second consecutive 197+ score. Bus trips are some of their best bonding experiences, according to sophomore Shani Remme, which contributes to their closeness as a team.

“I don’t have a particular [favorite], because we just have a lot of fun,” she said.

But this trip would be especially memorable. Someone on the bus discovered the weekly rankings were in, and the Broncos now sat at No. 7—their highest ranking in program history.

“When we saw we were seventh… We all started cheering and jumping around,” freshman Courtney McGregor said. “We were super excited!”

But this would not be the pinnacle of the season for the Broncos.

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“We move on, we celebrate but we try not to think about it too much and get ready for the next meet,” McGregor said.

The Broncos are no strangers to record breaking. Their achievements last season were huge. They achieved their then-highest national ranking, No. 9 in the country, not just once, but twice during the 2016 regular season. They broke a 15-year program record with their highest-ever team total, beating their previous top score by nearly three tenths. Lastly, the Broncos were undefeated in the regular season for the first time—a nearly unreachable feat, as they were the only team in the nation to do so.

This year, the Broncos have increased their record for highest national ranking twice. They were ranked No. 8 after week five and then moved up to No. 7 the following week after posting two scores over 197 in a row—one at home and one on the road. Their 197.075 at Denver even broke Boise State’s record for highest road score. This was also the first time in program history the Broncos had gone 197 or higher in back-to-back meets.

Consistency has been a key for team, according to coach Tina Bird.

“We’ve not been fluctuating very much,” she pointed out, even despite all the lineup swapping they’ve had to do. “Our score doesn’t really reflect [the lineup changes].”

When asked about her team’s greatest accomplishment this season, Remme agreed.

“I think just maintaining those high scores out on the road was a really, really big accomplishment for us.”

The path to the top hasn’t been straight and narrow, though. The Broncos have faced some adversity this season, particularly in the form of injuries.

“We’ve had a few,” Bird said. “Kids that we’re counting on for three events are doing one event, but we’re just hoping to get everybody healthy by the end of the year when it really counts.”

Having to limit its star performers has allowed Boise State to find new strength in the depth of the team. At Alabama, Alex Esmerian and Abby Webb competed in what was only their second meet in their collegiate careers. Each came up with a key score for the team—Esmerian a 9.925 on beam and Webb a 9.875 on floor.

“To have a kid that hasn’t really competed very much and to get out there—that’s what brings tears to my eyes, “ Bird said. “The magic came from our juniors. They never gave up. When they finally got a chance to step into the lineup, it wasn’t just mediocre or a middle-of-the-road score, it was one of our top scores on a couple of events. So that really goes to show that the kids top to bottom are working their butts off to get in those lineups and to be successful in the meet.”

That persistence leading to the success of even their backup routines is just one example of the Boise mindset. Records are never the goal here. This team is always thinking ahead, looking forward, because there’s #UnfinishedBusiness to attend to. Last season, the Broncos placed third at their regional competition, leaving them just shy of qualifying to the national championships.

“We were so close to making it to nationals, so it was a little disappointing,” said Remme. “So our seniors this year came up with ‘Unfinished Business’ where this year we want to make it to nationals, and we’re going to strive to actually achieve it because we know we can get there.”

For Bird, this motto ties in perfectly with all the things she and co-head coach Neil Resnick ask of their gymnasts.

“I love it because it means there’s a fire in their hearts, and they’re really motivated to do the things that are going to make us better not just the things that are fun and not just being a good gymnast,” Bird said. “They’re dedicated in the classroom; they’re going to get enough sleep; they’re going to watch their nutrition. They’re really on board with every aspect—as a team, not just as a few upperclassmen leading but the whole team.”

You might think that carrying that kind of baggage from one year to the next would put off some of the freshmen who didn’t have that same experience, but for the Broncos, it seems to be the opposite.

“It’s an awesome sort of slogan for the year,” McGregor said. “They explained it to us, and they’ve been so close so many times to making it to nationals. I can’t even imagine how disappointing that is when they miss it. I think one year they missed it by a quarter of a tenth, and then last year it was a tenth, and that’s just crazy. It’s really motivating for everyone.”

Each of the gymnasts even has a keychain with the motto on it to keep with them as a personal reminder. To McGregor, it means remembering the journey along the way.

“We always focus on going to nationals as our biggest goal, but we try not to make [it all about] that because then you’ll just be thinking about the end result,” she said. “With Unfinished Business, every day we go in the gym we’re trying to fix those tiny little half-tenth deductions on all our routines, so when we get to the end of the season, hopefully we can… Finish our business!”

For Remme, it’s all about teamwork. She qualified to nationals last year as an individual on beam, but without her team, it wasn’t the same.

“For me, [Unfinished Business] means making it together as a team because we’ve never made it to nationals.”

The girls aren’t counting their chickens before they hatch, but they’re certainly dedicated to doing whatever it takes to make it there. Resnick knew very early on that this would be a big year for his team. When asked about a moment where he first recognized the team’s potential, he spoke of their first intrasquad of the season.

“I just saw how far along they were, how fit they were. They were extremely gymnastically fit, and just very focused.”

Bird, too, saw the total package in their gymnasts.

“They’re really good kids, and you can say that gymnasts are really good people. But these kids are really special, really loving, caring, compassionate, dedicated kids. They’re good human beings. They have good hearts, and it’s just maybe karma.”

Maybe it’s karma, dedication or a mixture of many things. But in any case, this Boise State team is definitely hungry this season. Its consistency and ability to score well on the road are the accomplishments its most proud of. And if it can continue that trend, it will be in for a truly monumental finish to what has already been an incredible season.


Photos courtesy of Boise State Photo Services.
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