Of all the teams she has coached, Utah gymnastics’ Megan Marsden believes the 2019 squad is one of the most consistent.
Kudos to that consistency goes to not only the veterans who were expected to lead the team such as Kari Lee, MyKayla Skinner and MaKenna Merrell-Giles, but also those who have stepped up and filled some rather large roles.
Originally, the Utes had envisioned freshman Cammy Hall would be a candidate to fill lineup spots on the vault and floor, freshman Cristal Isa would be a consistent contributor on the uneven bars and two or three other events and junior Missy Reinstadtler would be in the all-around.
But as is usual with sports, the season hasn’t gone as planned with Hall being sidelined with an Achilles tendon tear, Isa out with an arm injury and Reinstadtler limited to just the uneven bars due to a foot injury.
Remarkably though, the Utes head into their NCAA regional competition Friday not only as a legitimate NCAA contender, but doing so by primarily relying on just seven gymnasts to shoulder the majority of the work.
The key to the success has been the way in which others have responded, Marsden said.
“I like the idea that comes when one person has an injury or something happens, that others see it as an opportunity to step up rather than back away and that is what has happened with this team.”
Among those who have played a larger role include Lee, who as Marsden noted wasn’t really thought of as being in integral part of the bars lineup.
But she has become crucial as the leadoff gymnast, scoring 9.9 or higher in five of the last seven meets.
“She doesn’t like bars as much as the other events, but that is where the lessons of life occur and someone has to address something and they have to work harder than they thought,” Marsden said. “Kari had to do that and she has really stepped up for us.”
On balance beam, Alexia Burch, Sydney Soloski and Adrienne Randall have all played bigger, more consistent roles. Burch struggled early but has seemed to find more confidence, hitting 9.8 or higher in three of the last four meets while Randall has earned 9.85 or higher in the last four.
Soloski didn’t join the beam lineup until Feb. 9, but she has hit in every meet including two 9.85s in the last two.
“We weren’t quite getting it done on beam and Sydney and the others came up and really shined. When it became obvious Missy couldn’t do it, it was ‘what are you doing to do to help keep Utah at the top?,’ and they’ve done that.”
Of all the events, vault perhaps is the one area in which the Utes have been harmed the most, simply because Hall was working a 10.0 vault.
Kim Tessen has competed in the last half of the season and has two 9.9s, but the Utes are still missing some scoring opportunities. Regardless, Marsden can’t fault the Utes’ effort.
“We don’t have that other 10.0 vault, but the ones we do have have improved their landings and that has shown,” she said.
Baton Rouge, La.
1 p.m. and 6 p.m. MT
Radio: ESPN 700
Afternoon session: Utah, Minnesota, BYU, Arkansas
Evening session: LSU, Auburn, Arizona State, George Washington/Linwood winner from April 4