In front of a sold-out crowd at the Salt Lake City Regional, the University of Utah gymnastics team punched its ticket to the NCAA Gymnastics Championship for the 43rd year in a row.
The Red Rocks hosted the meet between BYU, Southern Utah University, Auburn, California and Stanford.
In Red Rock fashion, things got off to a powerful start for Utah as it started the competition on the floor. The team combined for a total of 49.600 after strong performances from MaKenna Merril-Giles and MyKayla Skinner. Merrell-Giles, who landed a 9.950, knew the team was starting off on a good note when it started with its best event.
“Floor has been one of our strongest events this year, so we were really happy when we found out that we were starting on floor,” Merril-Giles said. “We were just going to hold nothing back and just do exactly what we have been doing in practice and in competition.”
Co-head coach Tom Farden was also happy with his team’s performance on floor, especially since it is one of the areas the team dominates in. All the Utes had to remember was to perform like they practice.
“The start on floor was incredible,” Farden said. “The one thing we talked to them about was sometimes when you start a meet — and I was watching warm ups and a couple of them were doing things that were a little uncharacteristic — I just told them to breathe a little bit. The term that I coined was controlled aggression, and I thought they did a good job of controlling the aggression out there. To win floor on the first rotation with a 49.6, we were really pleased with that.”
Using the same controlled aggression, the Red Rocks went to vault. Kim Tessen had a beautiful vault to score a 9.90. Skinner once again came in clutch with the same score. The Red Rocks scored a 49.350 which brought their total to 98.950 before they headed to a bye.
After the bye for Utah, each team had completed two full events and the Red Rocks were in the lead. Utah’s 98.950 was followed by California in a close second at 98.525, Auburn had 98.350, BYU was at 98.275, SUU had 97.275 and Stanford with 97.175.
The Red Rocks came out to bars where they had a few rough landings. They were still able to pull together strong performances from Merrell-Giles, Tiffani Lewis and Skinner who were all able to land their dismounts.
Heading into what would be the final rotation of the night for the Red Rocks on beam, the team knew they didn’t have room for mistakes. The competition was far from over — a few wobbles from Sydney Soloski and an unusual fall from Kari Lee put the Red Rocks’ lead at risk.
Missy Reinstadtler then executed a near perfect beam routine and the Hunstman Center knew it after she stuck her landing. Reinstadtler landed a 9.925 and Skinner put together a 9.90 to send the Utes into the final rotation on a bye with a score of 197.475.
“Basically, I’ve hit every part of that routine, but never all at once,” Reinstadtler said. “The first half went well and I was trying not to get ahead of myself and get too excited. Just kind of do what I’ve been doing in practice, and it felt good.”
After the bye, the Red Rocks win was confirmed with Cal coming in as No. 2 with a score of 196.725. The Red Rocks will have a week off before they head to St. Louis, Missouri where they will compete April 20-21.