Often times college gymnastics coaches prefer consistency in their lineups with the belief familiarity will lead to better performances.
But the Utes are taking a different tact this season, keeping things loose with the hopes competition for lineup spots will keep the athletes pushing themselves.
The event where that competition is particularly intense right now is the balance beam. The Utes have had their struggles on the beam in the past, but they had a strong season on the event in 2018 and they think they can be even better in 2019 thanks to a lot of depth and returning experience in the lineup.
Having plenty of choices is allowing coach Megan Marsden to keep her team vying for spots, which she hopes translates into a competitive team on the floor.
“When they know the lineup they don’t need to worry about whether or not they may get the nod to get in there and we want them to compete,” she said. “We want them to have an edge and have to work to get in there. Hopefully that will translate to how they approach the gymnastics in meets too.”
The Utes had some mixed results in their opener with junior Missy Reinstadtler falling and a few others having some small breaks, but Marsden thinks her team will settle in now that the first-meet jitters are out of the way.
She at least has the luxury of having several choices available to her as the Utes prep for Friday’s meet at BYU.
“We have a large number of beamers in the mix,” Marsden said. “We have some good returners and several sophomores waiting in the wings and we want to see who can compete with confidence so our lineup might change week to week.”
The Utes do have a few who can be counted on to make the lineup almost every time in seniors MaKenna Merrell-Giles and Kari Lee and Skinner.
But other spots are up for grabs, including the leadoff spot. Utah had the luxury of Maddy Stover owning that role for much of her career, including her senior campaign last year. Finding her replacement is one of the priorities for Marsden.
No. 3 Utah at BYU
When • Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
Senior Shannon McNatt scored a 9.7 in the leadoff spot against Penn State, but the Utes also have sophomores Alexia Burch and Sydney Soloski pushing the lineup.
“Shannon did an OK job on Saturday,” Marsden said. “But we are going to continue to keep challenging her to work on her mental approach and compete with confidence.”
Freshman Adrienne Randall has a unique move in which she performs a back flip with a full twist and straddles the beam as she lands. She earned a 9.85 in her debut, making her case that she deserves in the lineup, at least momentarily.
“Any time you have a unique move it makes you a hot commodity,” Marsden said. “She is young but she seems like she is comfortable and confident up there.”
The one spot that seems ironclad is Skinner in the anchor role. The standout scored a 9.85 in the season opener and is Utah’s most consistent and dynamic gymnast.
While Marsden said she doesn’t want Skinner to have to compete with the pressure of falls ahead of her all the time, Skinner said she is normally unaffected and focused on her own performance. She is most concerned about the team getting a good overall score.
“It can be hard to compete under pressure but we have so much talent to get us where we want to be,” she said.
THE TOP 25
Ranking Team Average
1. Oklahoma 198.05
2. UCLA 197.25
3. Utah 197.175
4. LSU 196.775
5. Georgia 196.6
6. Michigan 196.05
7. Kentucky 195.975
8. Nebraska 195.7
9. California 195.65
10. Arkansas 195.575
11. Missouri 195.45
12. Stanford 195.175
13. Arizona St. 195.00
14. UC Davis 194.95
15. Ohio St. 194.9
16. Central Mich. 194.875
17. Auburn 194.825
18. Arizona and Alabama 194.75
20. Penn St. 194.45
21. Iowa St. 194.275
22. Minnesota and West Va. 194.15
24. UIC 193.925
25. N.C. State 193.325