It has been a bumpy road for the University of Utah gymnastics team this season, but despite being faced with some adversity, the Red Rocks prevailed and they managed to end their season on a high note.
The Red Rocks started their season ranked No. 6 in the preseason polls, and after defeating then-ranked No. 7 Michigan and going 2-0 in Pac-12 meets they climbed up to the No. 4 spot in the rankings. After the Oregon State Beavers handed the Red Rocks their first defeat of the season by just .25 on Feb. 11, the team dropped in the rankings, but with one loss under their belts, the Red Rocks used it to fuel themselves for their next challenge against UCLA.
“Taking a loss kind of ignites a fire underneath our feet and shows the younger ones that we win some and lose some,” said junior Maddy Stover.
Topping then-ranked No. 4 UCLA, the Red Rocks kept their momentum going as they defeated two more Pac-12 foes, and they had a conference record of 5-1 with one more meet left in the regular season. Co-head coach Megan Marsden thought it would be beneficial to go on the road against Georgia because it would provide more of that competitive atmosphere.
The Red Rocks were missing one of their key gymnasts during the Georgia meet as senior Baely Rowe was sidelined for a couple of events. Marsden and co-head coach Tom Farden wanted to rest Rowe on vault and floor, and they ended up giving sophomore Kari Lee a chance to shine.
Lee scored a 9.875 on floor, and she won all around that night with a score of 39.45. The Utes ended up falling to the Bulldogs as they could not recover from their slow start.
Going into the Pac-12 Championships, the Red Rocks were the No. 2 seed with UCLA leading the pack. Both Utah and UCLA competed alongside Washington and Oregon State in the second session. The Red Rocks won and Farden mentioned that it was the hard work and the confidence the Red Rocks brought into practice and the meet that earned them the Pac-12 title.
For freshman Mykayla Skinner, winning the Pac-12 was the goal of a lifetime.
“We worked so hard,” Skinner said in a press release following the win. “We got off to an amazing start on the bars and just took off from there. Winning the Pac-12 Championship [was] a dream come true.”
The Red Rocks were selected to compete at the NCAA Fayetteville Regionals in Arkansas as the top seed. With the top two teams advancing from each of the six regionals, the Red Rocks managed to place in first with 197.150 points, but things got trickier at the next stage.
Utah had a difficult time matching some of their regular season averages at NCAA Nationals. It was touch-and-go for a bit when they fell out of the top three at one point during the first semifinal, but the team eventually finished in third to advance to the Super Six.
“We were a little tight on vault and bars,” Farden said in a press release. “I told the team after bars that we had 12 routines down and 12 still to go, and to just relax and trust themselves.”
With a shot at the national crown, the Utes went into the Super Six eager to compete, but they came out with too much adrenaline according to Farden. The Red Rocks finished nationals in fifth place, but despite coming in second to last, Farden was proud of his team.
“Our gymnasts competed their hearts out tonight,” Farden said in a press release. “It was a great learning experience for us, given our youth, and it was great to be back in the Super Six after a year away.”