Fans watch in wonder, coaches marvel at it and teammates admit to twinges of jealousy. Yes, Tory Wilson’s vaults are the current buzz in Utah gymnastics.
Wilson, a sophomore for Utah’s ninth-ranked team, is aiming for her fourth straight event title Friday when the Utes host Arizona State in the Huntsman Center.
Utah doesn’t keep any official records for successive individual wins, but few have ever shown the consistency and quality of vaults that Wilson is producing. So far she has scored a 9.9 and two 9.95s.
Already her skill is drawing comparisons to former great Utah vaulters such as Kristina Baskett and Ashley Postell.
“Honestly, I don’t know how she does it,” teammate Corrie Lothrop said. “I can’t figure out how to do it for myself and the way she competes it — it just works.”
A member of the Junior Olympic National Team before joining the Utes, Wilson has a powerful physique that helped her excel in explosive skills such as vaulting and the floor exercise.
Last year, she capped off her rookie season by earning second-team All-America honors on the vault.
However, a little extra work in the offseason and extra reps turned Wilson from a good, reliable vaulter into an excellent one.
She anchors the lineup for the Utes and ranks second nationally with her 9.933 average.
“Her vault looks almost unique, the way she almost defies gravity momentarily,” Utah coach Greg Marsden said. “She goes up big on the horse and drops out of the air straight down. She is just so consistent with them.”
The key to Wilson’s success is her knack for getting the timing just right. She hits the horse quickly enough on the rise from her launch that she just adds more to the launch.
“A lot of people come down on their hands’ weight bearing and it’s tough to get much height off the horse,” Marsden said. “They might get distance but not height, and she gets both.”
Wilson, who has been performing her vault since sixth grade, credits muscle memory for much of her success.
“I’ve made little improvements here and there, but something clicked and I’ve just been good at it,” she said. “It is a leap of faith. Your muscles develop the memory and your body just knows what to do. You don’t want to overthink it too much or you can mess it up. You have to just go with it.”
As her wins build, Wilson knows expectations build as well.
She isn’t feeling any pressure to maintain the wins.
“It’s in the back of my mind, but I try to go into every meet and pretend it’s the first meet of the season and just do the vault,” she said.
And she does it well.
Arizona State at No. 9 Utah
O Friday, 7 p.m.
Records • Utah 4-1; ASU 2-2
About the Utes • The Utes have won or tied for every individual event and all-around title in the last two meets. ... Utah is coming off a 196.6-196.075 win at Arizona, with the score being the seventh-best in the nation this season. ... Georgia Dabritz ranks fifth on the bars (9.883). ... Utah is 32-2 against ASU in Salt Lake City.
About the Sun Devils • Have lost the last 12 matchups to the Utes. ... Coming off a season-high 195.6 in a loss to UCLA (196.375). ... The Sun Devils don’t use any gymnasts in the all-around. ... John Spini is in his 33rd season as the Sun Devils’ coach.
Tory Wilson file
Height/year • 5-foot-2, sophomore
Hometown • Albuquerque, N.M.
Of note • Scored a 9.95 in the NCAA Super Six and a 9.9 in the NCAA semifinals. ... Hit 16 of 16 routines last year. ... Made the Dean’s List and the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll. ... 2010 and 2011 New Mexico state all-around champion.