In her first season with the University of Utah gymnastics team, sophomore Kari Lee was the only gymnast on her team to compete in all-around in the first three meets of 2015. Unfortunately, the Red Rocks lost her for the rest of the season after she went down with a torn Achilles tendon during practice.
Lee spent the following year recovering, and in her second season with the Red Rocks, she made her way back to competing in vault, bars and beam. In the last regular meet against Georgia however, Lee made her season debut on the floor and stunned the crowd with a 9.875.
Now that Lee is back to competing in all-around, co-head coach Megan Marsden is glad to have her back on floor. With that sort of injury coaches and athletes try to stay conservative on floor and vault, but Marsden always knew Lee aspired to get back to that event.
“Tom [Farden] and I have tried to manage her as much as we can, but when you have someone like Kari tugging on your sleeves saying to give her a chance, and proving daily that she was ready, we needed to give her that opportunity,” Marsden said.
Lee is glad to be performing in all four events, but the thought of competing in all-around again doesn’t really phase her.
“I train for [all-around] so the last couple of weeks, I have been tumbling out [on floor],” Lee said. “We train all the events, so the only difference was putting a routine out there and making the score count. Obviously, it is hard to make lineups so I was grateful that I was given the chance.”
After a strong floor performance, Lee performed her routine again at the Pac-12 Championships this past weekend. Heading into it, Lee felt great, and she mentioned that everything was normal, but when she overran in her first pass.
“It gave me a little bit too much power, so I kind of overshot my takeoff,” said Lee. “It propelled me forward when I landed and I ran out of bounds a little bit.”
Lee’s mishap didn’t stop her determination to make the rest of the routine count. Lee finished her routine with a 9.675, making sure that if anyone else’s score was dropped, her score was decent enough.
“Obviously, I didn’t want anyone else in the lineup to make a mistake, but if that did happen, my score could have counted so I was trying to get every tenth that I could out of that routine,” said Lee. “I wasn’t happy with what I did, but in the end, we had an amazing night, and I was proud of the team.”
Lee added that her teammates had her back the whole way through, and while her score ended up being dropped, it was great to be back on the floor.
Marsden said that Lee’s performance at the championships showed that she hadn’t had a lot of time in the spotlight of the event, but Marsden feels that with another week or so of training, Lee will be ready.
As far as postseason goes, Lee said that the chances of her competing out on the floor again all depend on how her workouts go these next few weeks, but the spot is still up for grabs.
“MaKenna [Merrell] has been in floor lineup all year, so she could take it back from me, which I would totally be okay with because I am happy for whoever makes lineup,” said Lee. “I know that whoever goes in lineups will do the very best they can.”