LeBlanc Comes West, Shines on the Gymnastics Team

University+of+Utah+women%27s+gymnastics+junior+Emilie+LeBlanc+performs+on+the+balance+beam+in+a+dual+meet+vs.+Arizona+State+at+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City%2C+Utah+on+Friday%2C+Jan.+24%2C+2020.++%28Photo+by+Kiffer+Creveling+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

University of Utah women's gymnastics junior Emilie LeBlanc performs on the balance beam in a dual meet vs. Arizona State at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor

 

When junior Emilie LeBlanc first had the idea to transfer to the University of Utah from the University of Maryland, she immediately called Macey Roberts, who had made the same transfer a few seasons earlier. LeBlanc wasn’t happy with her role in College Park and was looking for a school that would give her the most in her last few years of gymnastics. 

“I reached out to Macey when I decided I wanted to transfer. I was like ‘Hey what was your process? What made you choose Utah? Is it what you wanted?’ because I have heard stories of girls transferring and saying, ‘I want to go here because of this’ and then being in the same situation, and I don’t want to be stuck in the same situation again,” LeBlanc said. “And she was like, ‘Nope this is exactly what I wanted and if this is what you want, this is the place for you’ and I was like, ‘Okay, perfect.” 

University of Utah women’s gymnastics junior Emilie LeBlanc performs on the balance beam 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)

LeBlanc was coming into a young program in Utah that not only lost four seniors last season, but that also had a void due to MyKayla Skinner deferring her senior season to pursue a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. According to head coach Tom Farden, once Skinner announced her plans, the staff was looking to bring some experience into the program. 

“The best route for us was not to bring another freshman in, but it was to bring somebody in who had some experience under her belt because at the end of the day experience is the best teacher,” Farden said. 

LeBlanc holds the leadoff performance for the Red Rocks on beam and bars — but once she got to Utah, she started training to be a viable option on the vault for the team. 

Despite having live meet experiences, there are still some issues. As one of only five upperclassmen on the team, people would be looking to LeBlanc to be a leader — yet she didn’t want to overstep her boundaries as one of the newer members of the team during the preseason. As this season has gone on, her role has started to change. 

“I feel like my role has been to keep the underclassmen calm, cool, collected as they go into their competition. Making sure they have what they need and just trying to keep things rolling smoothly,” LeBlanc said. “Some of them need to be relaxed and calmed down, and some need to be distracted and it just depends on the individual.” 

As for her pre-meet rituals, LeBlanc said she doesn’t really have any, but she does enjoy having some time to breathe and focus on the job at hand. Coming to Utah is a culture shock for some gymnasts. A home meet features 15,000 cheering fans, and it is one of the best settings in college athletics, which is among LeBlanc’s favorite parts of being at Utah.

University of Utah women’s gymnastics junior Emilie LeBlanc is greeted by her team after her performance on the balance beam in a dual meet vs. Arizona State University at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

“The atmosphere in the gym, the atmosphere while competing, the whole entire program has been amazing,” LeBlanc said.

During the Pac-12 home opener, LeBlanc blossomed, scoring a 9.825 on the bars. She won her first event title as a Red Rock on the beam with her score of 9.900, which tied her career best. Farden sees she is already improving on some small things and that can help her become a better gymnast. 

“Because of her work ethic, and the way she approaches gymnastics as a student of the sport I think she is going to continue to improve,” Farden said. “She’s got a couple of areas where we want to continue to watch her improve on, and I think it has already shown that she has improved on them and is working on it and it is going to continue to go on that way.” 

As for LeBlanc and her goals for this season, it’s simple. “My goal is the team,” LeBlanc said. “I just want us to be the best possible us.” 

Farden sees the similarities between LeBlanc and Roberts and feels like that will help her have a successful career at the U. “They are both very hard workers. They love gymnastics,” Farden said. “They wanted to be in an environment where they know our goals to be at the top of the conference and to make those team finals, and so I think they wanted to be a part of that.”

“Not everyone gets the experience to be a part of this team and it’s so rewarding, even right now at the beginning of the season,” LeBlanc said. 

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