Fans got a first look at the 2019 University of Utah Red Rocks Gymnastics team last Friday. Over 5,000 fans came out to support the team in their lone exhibition match before the season gets underway.
While no scores were given out during each gymnast’s routine, many members of the team showed strong routines on each event. Only three gymnasts competed in all four events. Alexia Burch, MaKenna Merrell-Giles and Mykayla Skinner showed off what they will bring to the all-around category this season.
The meet started off with the Utes taking to the vault. Burch started things off strong for the team with a solid performance on the event. True freshman Cristal Isa showed fans what she brings to the table as well with another solid performance on the event. Things really took off for the team when both Macey Roberts and Kari Lee stuck the landings on their vaults. Even though she took a small step on her landing, Merrell-Giles showed the capabilities that the fans have gotten used to. This event was rounded out by Skinner who proved she is the current NCAA vault champion.
The team then moved to the bars where things started off a little rocky. True freshman Hunter Dula missed the top bar on one of her moves and promptly landed on the mat. Kari Lee looked to get things back on track with her routine, everything was perfect until the landing in which Lee stumbled backward and fell on the ground. Merrell-Giles, as well as Missy Reinstadtler, were both very good on the bars. This rotation was rounded out by Isa, Skinner, Burch and true freshman Adrienne Randall.
The team then split up into two groups to take on both the beam and the floor. For the red team, Sydney Soloski, Randall, Lee, Reinstadtler and Skinner all competed. The first four routines for this group were strong with a few minor things that need improvement. Skinner was strong on the event as well even though she had a rare bobble on the beam.
The first set of girls to compete on the floor included Isa, Burch, Dula and Merrell-Giles. Burch was the first gymnast to show off new choreography from new volunteer coach BJ Das. This year’s routines look to be vastly different than the ones fans have been used to in the last two years.
According to Skinner, the addition of Das to the staff has been ‘awesome’ and really made it so the routines represent the girls more than they did last year.
“She has made so many great changes to other people’s routines and the choreography for everyone else which has been really cool because our lineup for floor is amazing and so it’s nice to have really good choreography to go along with that,” she said.
“I love how she has made everybody’s routine so individualized, not one routine looks like another and they all fit our personalities really well so it is easy for us to get into them especially on the road it’s going to be more easy to show it off because they fit our personalities so well,” Merrell-Giles said.
Isa took a small step on one of her passes but showed her potential on the event as well. Dula, as well as Merrell-Giles, got the crowd excited from their routines. Merrell-Giles stuck all of her passes, and in the process flexing her regional floor champion crown.
For the last rotation of the night, the white team took to the beam with only three girls competing. Burch nearly fell off the beam but was able to keep herself on it, and she proceeded to finish the event strongly. Shannon McNatt took to her lone event of the evening and impressed fans with her beam routine. The beam was finished off by Merrell-Giles who nailed her routine on the beam.
Meanwhile on the floor, Roberts and Lee both made their case to be in the floor rotation with two very strong performances on the mat. Fans should be more than excited to see what Randall will bring to the team after her fantastic performance on the floor. The evening was rounded out by Soloski and Skinner showing their power on the event.
While some of the line up has been somewhat figured out, co-head coach Tom Farden said that there were some surprises on the night for the coaching staff.
“Shannon did a really nice job and Adrienne is a fantastic beam worker. She is a lock on beam and showed how calm she is as a freshman. [Co-head coach] Megan [Marsden] and I wanted to be open-minded and see who was ready to compete under pressure,” Farden said.
According to Merrell-Giles, there are a few kinks that the team will need to work out before the season starts. They have a few weeks to work through the kinks, but by the time the season starts, they will be more than ready.
The team will take some time to regroup until the season opener. The season will open on Jan. 5, when they host Penn State at 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.