After a great season capped off with a fifth-place finish in the NCAA Championship, the University of Utah gymnastics team is ready to get back on the floor of the Huntsman Center and start their season.
The team is coming off their 43rd appearance in the NCAA National Championships. The team has proven to be a powerhouse in the college gymnastics world. Utah is the only school to have participated in every National Championship since its creation. Starting this season, the championship will move away from the Super Six format and go straight to a four-team final.
The team is returning 10 of the members of the team that were a part of the historic team last year, including two-time NCAA champion MyKayla Skinner. The team will be captained by seniors Kari Lee and MaKenna Merrell-Giles. The team is also welcoming in four new freshmen, Hunter Dula, Cammy Hall, Adrienne Randall and Cristal Isa.
According to Skinner, the team is trying to make sure that they nail every routine due to the new format for championships.
“I think we are definitely [sic] just going to go in and try to nail every event,” said Skinner. “I know the last two years maybe we started off really good in the season. We totally had the talent and the momentum and the energy to definitely place higher, so as long as we go in and nail routine after routine and following each other, that will be really good for us and will help us place in the top four.”
Also added in the off-season was volunteer coach BJ Das. Das will work with the Red Rocks as a choreographer. Das has a professional dance background and has choreographed for numerous commercials as well as for artists.
According to co-head coach Megan Marsden, the team is having an exciting time learning routines from Has. “I think what has been fun for our girls is to have a fun, young, dynamic choreographer who created the majority of our routines for this year. I know the girls are really excited to show them off to our fans,” she said.
The season will start on Dec. 7 when they host their annual Red Rocks Preview at the Huntsman Center. This meet will begin at 7 p.m. and will give fans a sneak peek of the team before the season starts in the new year.
The regular season will start for the team on Jan. 5 when they host Penn State University in the season opener for both teams.
The Red Rocks will then travel for the first time this season when they head down to BYU on Jan. 11 to take on the Cougars in the Deseret First Duel. While the Red Rocks will be coming off their meet against the Nittany Lions, this is the season opener for BYU.
The road trip will continue for the Red Rocks the following week when they begin Pac-12 competition in Corvallis on Jan 19. The three-week-long road trip will conclude with the Red Rocks taking on the Sun Devils of Arizona State on Jan 26.
The Red Rocks will return home to the Huntsman for the first time in over a month on Feb. 5 when they host Arizona. The team will stay at home the following week when they host Cal on Feb. 9.
The team will then participate in their first and only quad meet of the season when they participate in the Mardi Gras Invitational. The Red Rocks will compete against LSU, Missouri and Stanford on Friday, Feb. 15.
The Red Rocks won’t have much time to recover when they head to Palo Alto to take on Stanford for the second of three times during the season. This meet is set to happen on Monday, Feb. 18.
The team will then head back home to compete in one of their most important meets of the season on Feb. 23 when they host UCLA, the current Pac-12 Champions. This will be a key meet to see which team is the top seed going into the Pac-12 Championship.
Senior night for the Red Rocks will be on March 2, when the team hosts Michigan at the Huntsman. The regular season will end for the team when they head down to Athens, Georgia to take on the Bulldogs.
Also announced in the off-season was the moving of the location of the Pac-12 Championship. It was decided that the competition would be moved to a neutral site. The Maverik Center in West Valley City was chosen to be the first venue to host the championship from 2019-2021.
“I think it is going to be really good for us,” said Skinner, “because it is going to be fun to have all of our fans be able to come out and watch for the next few years. It will get us really pumped up and ready. It’s just going to be some fun to have such a big crowd. I think it’s a really good place to have Pac-12s and I’m excited and the team is excited.”
The Red Rocks look to take back the crown from UCLA in this meet on Saturday, Mar. 23.
“Our team is very much wanting to retain their title of Pac-12 Champs which we lost to UCLA by a few tenths [of a point] last year,” Marsden said. “That was kind of a tough thing for them to take, so they are looking forward to trying to really be prepared to go to battle at Pac-12 Championship.”