Veterans Lead No. 5 Red Rocks over No. 12 Kentucky


University of Utah women’s gymnastics senior Kim Tessen performs on the floor in a dual meet vs. The University of Kentucky at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor


Lead by a stellar performance from senior Kim Tessen, the No. 5 University of Utah Red Rocks gymnastics team took down No. 12 Kentucky 196.425-195.350. It was Tessen’s time to shine tonight as she scored a 9.90 or above on all three events she competed in the season opener for the team. 

In past seasons, Tessen didn’t usually see lots of time on multiple events, but her role as one of two seniors on a very young Utah team has put her in a place of leadership. 

“I chose confidence today and that is something that I have to work on as an individual every single day, but today I told myself that I need to be confident for myself and for my team. I am hoping that that can carry over to the rest of my team members as well,” Tessen said. 

Junior Sydney Soloski also had a strong night, which started when she was the leadoff performance on the vault, an event she hasn’t competed on in a while. After sticking her landing and scoring a 9.80, the look of pure joy on her face was evident. 

“Being the first one up on vault is kinda the most stress I ever feel,” Soloski said. “I was just so excited for that first vault to be one that I almost stuck, because I’ve had to work really hard on vault this preseason especially because we needed me to be able to vault. Having to come back after my freshman and sophomore year not really going over the table that much, I just felt so much pride and I was so happy for myself.” 

The firsts continued when Cammy Hall made her Huntsman debut tonight following Soloski on the vault. On her first time competing in front of 14,417 fans she scored a 9.825. 

“For her [Hall] to come out and do that big of a vault, I know everyone wanted to cry for her,” Soloski said. “She has really worked so hard to get where she is right now.”

Half of Utah’s freshman class came out with guns blazing tonight. Maile O’Keefe competed on three events and exhibitioned on the fourth. On vault, she scored a 9.775, bars 9.600 after she had a very solid routine until her landing. On her final event — the beam — she scored a 9.80. 

Freshman Abby Paulson only competed on the floor and beam but both scores were very good for someone who was performing in front of a huge crowd for the first time. Her floor score was 9.825 while her beam score was 9.90. 

“It was so much fun,” Paulson said. “A lot different than I was expecting. It wasn’t actually as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be, especially beam. I love beam, unlike most people. It is really easy for me to stay confident there.”

The other half of the Utah freshman class was MIA from competition tonight. While Jaedyn Rucker was not expected as she is recovering from an ACL surgery, fans were surprised to see Jillian Hoffman in a boot. But according to head coach Tom Farden, it is nothing for fans to be worried about. 

“She sprained her foot,” Farden said. “She will be out for a couple of weeks here. Nothing severe, nothing broken. It is much like an ankle sprain and we’ll have to work back from that.”

While Tessen won the two events she competed in outright, she tied with Soloski to win the floor. Cristal Isa won the beam with a score of 9.925. Utah did not have an athlete compete in the all-around during tonight’s meet. 

This meet was good to get some of the kinks out and also to get reacclimated to competing. Soloski and the team are hungry to prove the doubters wrong. 

“No one expects us to be national champions, but that is something that we expect of ourselves,” said Soloski. “That is all that really matters. Regardless of what people think of us. We are not going to settle for what we did tonight. We are going to work hard and prove a lot of people wrong this year.”

Next up for the Red Rocks is the Best of Utah meet. The meet which will be held at the Maverik Center on Jan. 11 will feature the Red Rocks, BYU, Southern Utah and Utah State in a quad meet to see who is the best in the state. 


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