Preparation for the 2018 University of Utah gymnastics season started about a week after nationals took place this past year. The Red Rocks made goals, they worked through things and they came back ready to work during the summer. And on Friday night, in front of over 5,000 fans, Utah showcased a little bit of what the team has been focusing on as it gears up for its season. Utah also used this exhibition meet as a time to get jitters out before the real meets start in January.
Senior Tiffani Lewis believes the preview meet is important for the team as a whole, but especially for the new faces who have joined the program. The Red Rocks added two new freshman to their roster this year, Sydney Soloski and Alexia Burch. The two of them both gave glimpses of what kind of talent they are bringing to Utah.
“I mean you can talk about it all you want, but you’re not really going to know exactly what to do in a pressure situation until you’re put into it,” Lewis said. “So it’s kind of a nice little teaser, especially for the newcomers, and even the sophomores.”
Sophomore Mykayla Skinner had yet to spend an entire offseason with the Red Rocks, but she has been able to this season and she sees the positives that go along with that.
“When I first came I felt like I was rushed into everything and it was very overwhelming,” Skinner said. “This time I actually got to be here for the summer and it was just better because I feel like I’m closer with the girls than I was coming in.”
Skinner, who changed up her routines to add more difficulty to them during the offseason, excelled in all of her events.
“She has added a new leap combination on beam [switch leg leap to a straddle jump to a tuck back] and nailed it,” said co-coach Tom Farden. “Her vault was gigantic and she added a release move to bars that now gives her three. She probably would have gone out of bounds on floor, had she not been spotted, but we’re okay with that right now.”
Junior Kari Lee who battled injures this past season is feeling comfortable with where she is at. Along with Lee, sophomores Missy Reinstadtler and Kim Tessen, junior MaKenna Merrell-Giles plus Lewis and Skinner went all-around.
“It felt really great,” Lee said. “Coming into preseason we kind of had the mentality of go with the flow of the leg events, mainly floor. So we kind of changed up my passes and it ended up working out. … Hopefully I can stay healthy throughout the whole season and I can maintain that.”
Senior Maddy Stover performed on the beam and similar to many other Utes, she had limited time on the floor due to safety measures. Nonetheless, Farden was pleased with the efforts he saw from his team.
“I thought their demeanor was really good,” Farden said. “They were calm and confident and you can tell that they’re becoming more of a seasoned team out there. Not only are the athletes working on that, the leadership counsel has done an excellent job of being their sisters and a leader and also a competitor out there.“
The Red Rocks will open their season at home against BYU on Saturday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.