Few words can adequately describe the rise of the UW-Stout gymnastics program.

Meteoric is certainly one of them.

A year after finishing in last place at the WIAC championship meet, the Blue Devils have soared from bottom of the league to top of the nation. After the start they’re off to this year, the Blue Devils are the top-ranked team in Division III.

“When we started the year, I would say we didn’t expect this at all,” Stout coach Becky Beaulieu said. “But it’s been quite the season, and it’s really a tribute to a group of 19 women that are so hungry and have so much trust in each other and in the program. They’ve really worked their tails off.”

In the most recent National Collegiate Gymnastics Association rankings, Stout tops everybody with an average score of 188.763.

The Blue Devils have a host of high-ranking gymnasts in the individual standings. Sierra Beaver is second in the national rankings on the uneven bars, Shadae Boone is second on the vault and Mikala Bugge is third in all-around. Britney Wolfe checks in at No. 5 on the balance beam.

It all started with a narrow dual victory over two-time defending national champion UW-Whitewater on January 18. The Blue Devils edged the Warhawks 187.575-186. Stout set five personal records on the uneven bars in that dual, led by Mallary Dick’s 9.700 score.

Some of Stout’s underclassmen have been shining so far this season — Boone and Wolfe are both sophomores — which is something Beaulieu attributes to their willingness to follow the example of the squad’s leaders: Beaver, Brooke Terry and Chelsea Gray.

Gray is the team’s only senior.

“(Chelsea) hasn’t competed on bars since her freshman year, but she thought we needed more depth on bars so she came to me and said she’d be willing to train there,” Beaulieu said. “I think by her doing that, all the underclassmen took notice, so they’re all willing to be those seven-eight-nine competitors (in an event).”

The Blue Devils kept their momentum going in Texas over the weekend, finishing tied for second place at the Texas Woman’s University Quadrangular. Stout finished with 189.950 points to break the team’s previous scoring record of 189.350. The Blue Devils finished behind only the hosts, which compete at the Division II level.

“What we’ve been about is the process,” Beaulieu said. “It’s about doing the little things in the process to bring about the results. We don’t have control over the ‘W,’ and in my opinion, if we’re only focused on the win, we’re not going to do a lot of it.

“So we’re trying to let go of expectations and just be present in each day, each week.”

High morale has been a big boost to the team’s ability to stick to that process. Beaulieu said the addition of assistant coach Seth Helland has kept the team loose and having fun during practice, which has helped drive results in competition.

“There’s been such a positive synergy and chemistry with this group. These girls leave practice every day uplifted, as do we,” Beaulieu said. “It really makes it fun to be in the gym, and that’s what this year has been about.”