There were no opponents on the floor with Utah’s gymnastics team Friday at the Huntsman Center but the Utes still thought their Red Rocks Preview was a win.
“We have some talent to work with,” coach Tom Farden said after watching his team’s solid effort. “We are showing quite a bit of depth. I think we wanted to be open-minded and really start narrowing down who can compete under pressure because you can’t replicate that Huntsman Center with 5,000 people in it. We have been on all soft surfaces until today too and nothing says ‘hello’ like the gym floor.”
The Utes open the season Jan. 5 against Penn State. Judging from Friday’s showing they are on track for the opener.
“It’s Red Rocks so we were expecting to work out a few kinks,” senior MaKenna Merrell-Giles said. “We are in a good spot with a few weeks of training to come. By Penn State we will be more than ready.”
Merrell-Giles along with veterans MyKayla Skinner and Kari Lee all had some nice routines. Utah’s freshman class of Hunter Dula, Cristal Isa and Adrienne Randall handled the introduction to Utah’s large fanbase well with solid efforts.
The Utes’ fourth freshman, Cammy Hall, watched from the sidelines on crutches after tearing her Achilles tendon last week. The loss of Hall, who was supposed to add depth on vault and floor, hurts the Utes but there is time for others to step up in her place. Farden was particularly pleased with vault.
“If we were competing against Penn State with that vault lineup — those we’re six pretty good vaults,” Farden said.
The Utes debuted several different changes on the balance beam while floor had some new choreography that was well received by the fans and the team.
“The entertainment value on floor went up a notch,” Farden said.
Skinner, who continues to wow the crowd with her tumbling on the beam and floor, said it was good to see the freshmen handle the crowd well and admitted some nerves of her own.
“It’s kind of nice to get the nerves out,” she said. “I was definitely nervous and I don’t know why, I’ve done my routine tons of times.”