Kyndal Robarts decided to return to Utah’s gymnastics team for the 2012 season, not because she wanted to win individual titles or felt she had anything left to prove as a gymnast, but because she hated being on the sidelines during the NCAA Gymnastics Championships, a cheerleader rather than team leader.
“I didn’t feel as much of a part of the team,” she said. “Not being able to compete, I wanted to come back and get a chance to be on the podium again.”
This week she gets to finish business.
Robarts could have called it good last year when the senior suffered a season-ending knee injury during warmups of the third meet of the season.
Instead, she asked and received another year from the NCAA. What she didn’t get was another scholarship from Utah, since the Utes already had maxed out their limit. But walking onto the team and going through knee rehab were small sacrifices, in Robarts’ mind, for the chance to compete at the NCAA Championships again.
“I would have been so upset if I had missed this,” she said. “There are days when my body wants to be done and it hurts, but I am so glad I came back.”
The Utes are happy, too, considering Robarts has had such a strong season.
She won the NCAA regional floor title, finished first-team All-Pac 12 on the balance beam and has hit 33 of 36 routines.
Not a bad year, particularly for a walk-on.
“She is such a competitor,” Utah coach Greg Marsden said. “She has demonstrated that over and over again throughout her career. The awkward part was for me, knowing we didn’t have any scholarships for her and having to tell her that.”
The most difficult part of Robarts’ recovery was regaining her confidence on the vault. That was the event in which she suffered the knee injury at Nebraska last year and the incident left her with as much mental pain as physical.
“It wasn’t until about halfway through the season I felt confident,” she said. “I think my landings showed that. But now my vaults feel bigger and better than they have been in years.”
Robarts earned two 9.975s back-to-back in the Feb. 24 meet against Stanford and the March 2 meet against Oregon State. Since then, she hasn’t scored lower than a 9.825.
“It has been a really good year for her, especially when she had a lot to work through physically and mentally,” Marsden said. “For her to come back the way she has took a big commitment and a lot of effort on her part.”
Robarts tore the medial collateral and posterior collateral ligaments in the knee. While the injury didn’t require surgery, she did undergo a lot of rehab to stabilize the joint and continues to manage it.
“Our theme has been ‘Let’s get to April,’ ” Marsden said. “There have been times when we’ve had to back off things or use a different approach, but we wanted her to stay healthy and be in a place where she can compete at nationals.”
Now that the meet is here, Robarts said she isn’t taking anything for granted and will enjoy the competition, no matter how stressful it can get.
“I hope we can make the Super Six,” she said. “But really I just want to go out there and do well one last time and enjoy the competition. I would have been really upset if I had missed it.”
P Friday-Sunday,Duluth, Ga.
All times MDT
Friday early session (10 a.m.) • 2. UCLA 394.495 (regional qualifying score plus regional meet score), 3. Oklahoma 394.385, 6. Nebraska 393.555, 7. Utah 393.53, 10. Stanford 393.085, 11. LSU 392.645.
Friday late session(4 p.m.) • 1. Florida 394.77, 4. Alabama 394.27, 5. Georgia 394.095, 8. Arkansas 393.37, 9. Oregon St. 393.21, 12. Ohio St. 392.47.
Saturday • Top three teams from each session will advance to the Super Six at 2 p.m.
Sunday • Individualfinals, 11 a.m.
Kyndal Robarts file
• Senior, 5-foot-5
Hometown • San Marcos, Texas
Highlights • Two-time first-team All-American … U. of U.’s 2010 MVP … Has 11 vaults of 9.925 or better in her career … 21 career wins … Won the NCAA 2012 regional floor title … Final ranking of 21st on the vault (9.9 regional qualifying score).