While more and more teams are relying on two- and three-event performers, Utah’s gymnastics team seems to be going in the opposite direction.
The inclusion of Kari Lee in the all-around in Saturday’s win over Washington gives the Utes a possibility of four all-around competitors with Missy Reinstadtler, MyKayla Skinner and MaKenna Merrell-Giles all having competed as all-around gymnasts this year.
Lee went in place of Reinstadtler on the floor Saturday because the coaches wanted to rest Reinstadtler, who was having some aches and pains from training, as coach Megan Marsden put it.
“She hasn’t been in the all-around for a whole collegiate season and with Kari knocking on the door we thought it was a good time,” Marsden said. “We have a lot of depth on floor, which can be hard to manage, but it’s a good problem to have.”
Lee was a regular in the floor lineup until she tore her Achilles tendon in 2016. The Utes have been cautious in bringing her back, especially since she suffered a high ankle sprain last year shortly after returning to the lineup.
ARIZONA STATE AT UTAH
When • Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network
“Her calf muscle felt tight earlier this year and that created a little bit of a cautious mode for her to be on floor, but all reports are she got through the meet without any soreness in her body,” Marsden said. “She has been trying to improve and we know she wants to be in the all-around.”
Lee earned a 9.9 for her effort, which was just short of her career high of 9.925.
“It has been a long road for sure,” Lee said of her recoveries. “I still have a lot of things to work on, but it wasn’t a bad routine.”
Marsden isn’t sure whether the Utes will continue to rest Reinstadtler or use her this week against Arizona State. The Utes have enough depth, so there isn’t an urgency to get her back in the lineup before she is ready.
“We made some adjustments last week and it sounds like that helped,” Marsden said. “But it depends on how this week goes.”
Shannon McNatt has been hampered by plantar fasciitis but is getting better. She should be ready for beam first and then floor and vault since the latter two events require so much pounding on the landings. Kim Tessen has some shoulder pain that is aggravated by the vault and uneven bars, the two events where she is needed most, so the Utes have backed off on some of her training to manage the pain.
In the rankings
The Utes moved up to No. 2 with a 197.335 average while Oklahoma, which defeated UCLA 198.05-197.95 in Los Angeles on Sunday, maintained the top spot with a 197.813 average. LSU is third (197.29), UCLA is fourth (197.265) and Florida is fifth (196.98).
Utah is second on the vault (49.455), third on the bars (49.28), ninth on the beam (49.12) and first on the floor (49.48).
Skinner is third in the all-around (39.58) and fifth on the vault (9.92) and Merrell-Giles is fifth (39.565) in the all-around, fourth on the vault (9.925), seventh on the bars (9.905) and second on the floor (9.94).
Merrell-Giles earns Pac-12 honor
Merrell-Giles continued to be recognized for her best performance as a Utah gymnast when she earned Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week honors on Tuesday.
Merrell-Giles posted a career-best 39.675 in the all-around in the Utes’ win over Washington. She also scored her first 10.0, doing so on the vault, and won the floor with a 9.975 and tied her career high on bars with a 9.875.
Her perfect score was the first by a Ute on the vault since 2015, and her all-around score was the ninth-best in school history.
The Utes are wearing teal hair ribbons for the remainder of the season in support of survivors of sexual assault. Several team members expressed shock and sadness over the case of Larry Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics who has been sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison in a widespread child sexual abuse case. Several others involved in USA Gymnastics have also resigned.
The symbolism of the ribbons is particularly meaningful for Skinner, since she was a member of the Olympic team as an alternate and knows some of the victims involved.
“It’s a sad thing that happened and it’s a way for us to support the ones who were involved,” Skinner said. “Hopefully there can be a healthy start for everybody with a new coaching system in place. That will be good for everybody, and USA Gymnastics will always be amazing.”
Around the state
Brigham Young, which scored a 194.875 to finish third in a quad meet at Denver, travels to Southern Utah on Friday. Southern Utah earned its first win of the season by defeating Central Michigan, 195.825-195.675. Utah State, which lost to Boise State 196.675-195.0, competes at UC Davis along with Sacramento State on Friday.
1. Oklahoma, 197.813
2. Utah, 197.335
3. LSU, 197.29
4. UCLA, 197.265
5. Florida, 196.98
6. Kentucky, 196.475
7. Michigan, 196.425
8. Nebraska, 196.394
9. Alabama, 196.355
10. Arkansas, 196.31
21. BYU, 195.475