If there were a soundtrack to Shannon Hortman Evans’s (’20) childhood, New Super Mario Bros. ditties would play on repeat. She bonded with her foster brothers and even her mom over Saturday-morning gaming; she’s beaten the game seven times.
Now she’s known as the Mario gymnast.
In January the BYU All-American debuted a new floor routine set to a Mario-music mashup, and the internet ate it up. Video of the routine went viral, shared online by the likes of Sports Illustrated, Deadspin , and—Evans’s favorite—reigning NCAA floor champ Katelyn Ohashi , whose own Michael Jackson–inspired floor routine had just gone bananas online. Says Evans: “I fangirled and melted inside.”
Between the two of them, they make Olympic choreography look boring.
“With college choreography, you really try to please the crowds, to get the audience behind you,” says BYU assistant coach Brogan Jacobsen Evanson (BS ’05), who brainstormed the routine and cut the music with Evans—adding video-game sound effects of Bowser roaring, scoring an invincibility star, dying, and getting an extra life. All of it punctuated by Evans’s signature high-flying tumbling passes.
“People anticipate her floor routine,” says BYU coach Guard W. Young (BA ’02). “They know when it’s coming. They get their cell phones out to film her.”
For all the attention that has come with the Mario schtick, Evans had already been turning heads last season on the uneven bars—her specialty. She placed seventh on bars at the NCAA Championships—the first BYU gymnast to qualify for nationals and BYU’s first All-American gymnast in 14 years. “That was huge for Shannon and huge for our program,” says Young.
The program, which saw its last heyday in the early aughts, is rising. This season BYU gymnastics reached No. 14 in the national rankings, its highest in years. “The team theme this year is ‘Expect It,’” says Evans, team captain. “We are competing the same start values as any other team in college gymnastics, and we can score just as well.” And in BYU’s March meet at No. 11 Boise State, BYU notched a 197—its highest team score in more than a decade.
That meet came down to the final gymnast in the final event: Evans on beam, her weakest event. “If there’s going to be any kind of pressure and we need a big hit, we need it to be Shannon,” says Young, who places her last in the rotation strategically. “She relishes that role.”
Evans put down her best beam routine ever, getting not only the exact score needed for the win but totaling up a career-best 39.575 to claim the all-around title.
Her husband, BYU diver Ryan G. Evans (’20), is easily spotted in the crowd cheering her on—donning Mario hat, glasses, and mustache. Shannon picked up two rings last year, her wedding ring from him and her All-American ring, which BYU’s last All-American gymnast, Kari Lords Louthan (BS ’05), purchased for her as a surprise. The unexpected gift “makes me want to give back when I’m done,” says Shannon.
She’d take one more.
“A 9.9 is just not good enough anymore,” says Evans, the 2019 Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference Gymnast of the Year. She has her sights set on the NCAA all-around field. “There’s still so much more in me.”
End of Season Update: While Evans led the Cougars with a 39.225 in the all-around at NCAA Regionals, neither she, nor the team, advanced to nationals. Still, Evans has her sights set on next year.