Inside the Dumke Gymnastics Center, the site where the University of Utah Red Rocks practice, is a sign with the word “Warrior” written on it. On Friday night, “warriors” were exactly what the Red Rocks had to be as they struggled on beam and vault to compete in the Super Six.
“The good news is we never gave up,” said co-head coach Tom Farden after the meet.
The meet was another strong performance for MyKayla Skinner, who earned an NCAA Vault tri-championship and a second place finish in the All-Around, helping to seal the deal for the Red Rocks. Freshman Sydney Soloski and sophomore Missy Reinstadtler were both named All-Americans.
The Red Rocks, whose specialties are power events, started off the meet on a rough note as they struggled with vault. Things seemed fine until senior Tiffani Lewis took a big hop in her landing to score a 9.7875. Looking for big performances, Kim Tessen took multiple steps in her landing, which gave her the team low of 9.625. Skinner’s stellar performance landed her a 9.9375.
After one rotation, Utah found itself sitting in fourth place overall heading into its first bye round. The Red Rocks then headed to the uneven bars after regrouping.
On bars, the team made a comeback, picking up ground with strong performances all around. Not a single Ute scored lower than a 9.825. Lewis set the tone for the event with a score of 9.850. Skinner gave a solid performance and landed a 9.925.
Things got a little rocky for the Red Rocks on beam. In the second spot, Makenna Merrell-Giles had a fall on beam. Freshman Soloski came in clutch and set her teammates up for success. Soloski landed a 9.7500. Kari Lee was up next. She too stumbled, but maintained her balance and achieve a score of 9.725.
“That was sheer willpower by Kari Lee to stay on that beam after a technical error on an aerial, and she did not give up another tenth after that,” said a relieved Farden. “After Kari kept us in it, Missy set up MyKayla brilliantly, and MyKayla was perfect.”
Skinner added to her dominance with a score of 9.925 on beam.
After the third rotation, the Red Rocks found themselves sitting in third place. The team knew they would need a strong performance on floor, where they have dominated all season, to pull away from Cal, a team who has previously beaten them this season.
After the final bye for the team, the Red Rocks were able to pull together for a strong finish.
Lewis started, earning a score of 9.875 on the floor. Reinstadtler and Soloski showed why they were named All-Americans with scores of 9.8875 from Reinstadtler and 9.9125 from Soloski. Skinner powered her way to a score of 9.975, and the Red Rocks found themselves in familiar territory, a spot in the Super Six.