Mackie gets sneak preview of Red Rocks

Upon first entering the Dumke Center for the U gymnastic team’s practice Thursday night, all seemed normal. Kristina Baskett was giggling with Nina Kim. Ashley Postell was sprawled out on a mat stretching. Katie Kavisto was adjusting her elbow brace. Even freshman the presence of a few new faces like freshmen Jacquelyn Johnson and Kyndal Robarts wasn’t too jolting given the fact that the Red Rocks are now preparing for the 2008 season.

What was jolting was the fact that Gael Mackie had front row seats to what she could expect when she becomes the newest Red Rock on Dec. 26.

The 19-year-old Mackie, who was a member of Canada’s 2004 Olympic team, found a lull in her schedule to come out to Salt Lake City in an attempt to acclimate herself with what could prove to be her new home for the next four years.

Originally, Mackie was scheduled to join the Red Rocks after another run at an Olympic medal with her Canadian teammates. Canada, however, failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games. With a little help from Red Rock head coach Greg Marsden, Mackie decided to join the U gymnastic team a year ahead of schedule.

“It would have been really hard to wait another year and miss the Olympics and all that,” Mackie said. “Then I got a phone call from Greg. After the phone call I was so excited.”

If the 5-foot freshman does pull on a Utah leotard for the first time, she will add depth to the entire Red Rock squad, particularly on bars and beam. With the departure of graduated senior Nicolle Ford — who was proficient on both apparatuses — Mackie will add some much-needed depth to the Utes’ lineup.

“I like bars or beam,” Mackie said. “In the past I’ve been known to have flexible poses on beam and that kind of made me stand out.”

Although Mackie is unable to practice with the Utes during her current stay, Marsden has been providing guidance with how she can best prepare to make an immediate impact with the Utes come December. Marsden also gave Mackie a demonstration of one of his favorite strengthening excercises — one where his gymnastics climb a rope using only their upper body. Mackie’s response was that of a gymnast eager to join her future teammates.

“This is my second time here and I liked it even better than my first time,” Mackie said. “Everyone’s really happy.”

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