A postseason feel is what the No. 2 University of Utah gymnastics team (1-0) will get in Reno, Nevada as it participates in the Elevate the Stage meet against No. 4 UCLA (1-0), Stanford (0-0) and Washington (0-0). The competition is being hosted by the Knight Eady Sports Group and it will start at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 14. This will be the first time the Red Rocks play in a podium style meet during their regular season.
“I’m excited about it,” said co-head coach Megan Marsden. “It’s kind of fun to have a postseason feel like meet at this point in the year. I think mostly what we’re excited about is to give our athletes an experience on a podium, which is important because we’ll be heading, to hopefully at the end of the season, to national championships which is always on podium now. So it could provide our girls with some good experience.”
Utah has two athletes who call Nevada home. Freshman Alexia Burch grew up four miles away from Reno in Sparks, and senior Tiffani Lewis grew up in Las Vegas. Lewis is looking forward to the meet and the opportunity Utah has to face three talented teams this early on in its season.
“We’re going to be going up against UCLA,” Lewis said. “I know last year Washington got extremely better, and Stanford has a lot of great freshmen that have come in. It’s going to be really good competition and being able to get experience of competing on podium before postseason hits is going to be kind of exciting.”
The Red Rocks claimed the Pac-12 championship this past season, ahead of UCLA. This year the Bruins were the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 championship, while Utah was picked to finish in 2nd place.
“Whenever you face great competition like that, it’s a really good eye opener to really see exactly where you’re at and I mean they [UCLA] always offer great competition,” Lewis said. “So it’s kind of fun to head to head with them and see really great gymnastics this early on in the season.”
The Red Rocks had a dominate outing against BYU to start their season off on a high note. The one area the Red Rocks struggled at was beam and it was a point of focus heading into this meet. The team worked on beam during the preseason as it knew if it wanted to accomplish the goals it had set, beam work needed to see improvements. Marsden believes that nerves on beam might have played a role against BYU.
“I’m continuing to work that a little bit,” Marsden said. “I felt like the girls put a little too much pressure on themselves. I think for my athletes, what needs to happen on beam sometimes takes a little time doing beam routines in the decisive moment. It is one of the more nerve-racking events. It moves slowly, there is quite a bit of time for your mind to drip. So we’re continuing to work on our mental preparation, working with positive good verbal cues, some breathing techniques through the routine and stuff like that.”