Marking its 42nd consecutive appearance at the NCAA National Championship, the No. 4 University of Utah gymnastics team is heading to St. Louis, Mo. to compete in the first semifinal on Friday, April 14. Competing alongside the Red Rocks will be No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 6 UCLA, No. 7 Denver, No. 11 Washington and No. 12 Oregon State.
Sophomore Kari Lee feels relaxed heading to nationals because she now knows what to expect after competing at regionals, but she’s also relaxed because of the rotation the Red Rocks have.
“We have a good rotation starting on vault,” Lee said. “During season at home meets we started on vault, so just going into this meet we are just trying to stay calm, do our gymnastics like we normally do and enjoy it, because this is our last meet of the season.”
In the past, co-head coach Megan Marsden felt that certain groups were just happy to be going to nationals. This year her team has a bigger agenda than just making it, and they are executing their plans so far.
The Red Rocks have talked about wanting to have two meets left, which would include nationals and Super Six, but in order to achieve this goal Marsden said her girls will have to go 24-for-24 in semifinals to move onto the next round. Marsden doesn’t want to get too ahead of herself though, and she wants her team to take the meet one step at a time.
Making her first appearance at nationals in her college career, freshman MyKayla Skinner is looking forward to seeing what she knows her team can accomplish. If nationals goes anything like the Pac-12 Championships, she is confident her team will advance.
“This season we are just looking really great,” Skinner said. “It was just so fun to be a part of this team, and I hope with the next few years we will be even better. I just hope we can make it in the top three at nationals, and that would be just so exciting.”
Skinner thinks the Red Rocks need to be consistent if they want to finish in the top three. After the Pac-12 Championship, Skinner said the team backed down a little bit, and it was evident at regionals. Going into this weekend, the Red Rocks main focus is to step it up again, focusing on their landings to get those extra execution points.
Along with being more precise on landings, Lee added the Red Rocks are working on putting the finishing touches on their routines, because it was the wobbling on the events at regionals that got the deductions.
“We are just trying to put the exclamation point on things and trying to really dial in on those tenths because at nationals, it comes down to a quarter of a tenth between teams,” Lee said. “We are trying to crisp up our landings.”
With plenty of gymnasts lost to injury, Marsden said that there is fine line her and co-head coach Tom Farden are walking when it comes to preparing the team and keeping them healthy.
“We have gone through what is showing to be an incredibly deep lineup, but we are thin in some places, so Tom and I are working hard to make sure they are ready, but also healthy,” Marsden said.
Friday’s first semifinals are set to begin at 11 a.m. MT, followed by the second session at 6 p.m. MT. If the Red Rocks finish in the top three, they will advance to the Super Six, which will take place on Saturday, April 15 at 7 p.m. MT.