CEDAR CITY, Utah - Dec. 1 - SUU Gymnastics has begun the 2011 season among the nation's elite as the Thunderbirds have been picked No. 20 in the first national poll of the season.

Southern Utah is one of two teams in the Western Athletic Conference in the top-25 poll, joining No. 18 Boise State.  Two other members of the conference, Utah State and San Jose State, appeared in the poll as other teams receiving votes.  The Thunderbirds finished the 2010 season ranked No. 18 in the nation.

"This is a great position for us," head coach Scott Bauman said.  "We've finished high in the polls in the past and then didn't make the top 25 the next year.  This shows the attention and respect that our program is gaining among coaches across the nation."

The pre-season poll is strictly made up of NCAA gymnastics coaches' votes.  During the year the poll is based on team averages with the final weeks based on regional qualifying scores.

SUU will face several teams in the top 25 during the year, including No. 22 Iowa State and No. 13 Missouri.  However, the highlight of the season will be when the Thunderbirds host the No. 1 UCLA Bruins on January 14.  Southern Utah will officially kick off its 2011 season when the T-Birds travel to Utah State on January 7.

For the complete poll, please click here.