University of Utah women's gymnastics junior MaKenna Merrell-Giles performs on the balance beam in a duel meet vs. Brigham Young University at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

The University of Utah gymnastics team had another successful season in the 2017-2018 school year. The Red Rocks went 8-2 overall in their matches and placed fifth in the Super Six at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Utes welcomed new gymnasts and a number of familiar faces. Freshmen Alexia Burch, Sydney Soloski and Lauren Wong joined the team this year. Each of these women contributed immensely to the team’s sucesses all while learning and growing with the veterans in the program.

In the Pac-12 competition, Utah won five of their six matches and fell to the University of California, Berkeley. Their success in conference matches propelled them to the postseason.

University of Utah women’s gymnastics freshman Sydney Soloski performs on the floor in a duel meet vs. Brigham Young University at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

“We started off the season really well, and then we kind of went down a little bit, and then we had to pick ourselves back up,” sophomore MyKayla Skinner said.  “I think after senior night we went out there and put in 100% effort and we really wanted to try to win that national championship title.”

The Utes’ trip to the NCAA meet ended with a fifth place victory, their fourth fifth place finish in this tournament in the last eight years.  A rough start put the Utes behind, and they were unable to recover from it as the meet continued. Some highlights of the meet included a team all-time high on beam, with scores of 9.8 for both MaKenna Merrell-Giles and Missy Reinstadtler. Skinner received the highest scores for Utah on all events and the meet solidified her second perfect season of not falling once.

“Nationals went really well and was a really fun meet for us. Of course we wanted to get higher than fifth for that, but it was a really good stepping stone,” said Skinner.  “Especially since we had some little mistakes here and there, but we were able to recover still.”

University of Utah women’s gymnastics junior Kari Lee performs on the balance beam in a duel meet vs. Brigham Young University at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Now that their season is over, the team is on a lighter schedule for the summer. They are focusing on keeping up on their health and will not resume their typical training regimens until the fall semester begins. This time off is critical for the athletes to allow their bodies to rest and recover from the rigorous season.

“We just keep working hard, especially during preseason so that we can make it all the way through season and still be competitive at the end of the year,” Merrell-Giles said.  “Last year we did really well at that because we didn’t have any major injuries that set us back, because we worked so hard at getting strong during preseason.”

In addition to building their bodies back up once they start training again, these athletes will have to get back into their competition mindset. Competing in the Pac-12 is no easy feat, and in a sport where individual performance is key to the success of the team, a positive mindset is everything.

“What helps me is the knowledge that the better I am as an individual, the better the team will be.  Just to know that the harder I work, the better the team gets and the better I perform, the better the team is,” said Merrell-Giles. “It’s hard because you are out there alone, but your thought has to be on the team and making the team better.”

c.overfield@dailyutahchronicle.com

@caseyoverfield

Casey Overfield
Casey Overfield is in her second year at the University of Utah. This is her second year as a sports writer for the Chronicle, where she is the assistant editor for the sports desk. Casey is also a member of the Pride of Utah marching band, and hopes to be a sports writer after graduation.

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