A gymnasts-only meeting led to a Utah season high score against Arizona

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kim Tessen on the floor as the University of Utah hosts Arizona State, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.

A coach can try all the motivational speeches and all the mental preparation games they want with a team, but for a squad to be really successful, the leadership has to come from within.

That’s why Utah gymnastics coach Tom Farden was thrilled with the way his team responded Saturday to a lackluster effort a week ago.

Together, seniors Kim Tessen and Missy Reinstadtler and junior Sydney Soloski called a team meeting and reaffirmed the team goals. Here is a hint: The goals didn’t involve being the group that fell off Utah’s usual path of success, no matter how young they are.

“We wanted to meet and go over our goals because the last couple meets weren’t good enough,” Soloski said, then spoke of how she believes this team can compete for the national title.

The team responded to the gymnast-led meeting by beating Arizona with a season-high effort 197.3-195.975 Saturday. The performance not only indicated the Utes have the talent and mental strength to win on the road despite their inexperience, but also that the Utes have three leaders who Farden can count on.

"That was extremely bold of them to have that meeting,” Farden said. "It can be extremely challenging at times to be a peer and be a leader and get everyone on the same page. I loved the move that they made to do that.”

Farden believes the gymnasts are following a good example set by former gymnasts such as Kari Lee and MaKenna Merrell-Giles.

“It was easy for Kim, Missy and Sydney to be there for the ride,” he said. “But they are developing nicely into leaders of their own. They all had a curiosity of what it was like to be a leader and know what it was like to emerge as a leader.”

All three have different personalities so they bring a variety of qualities to the team. Tessen has renewed confidence in her gymnastics after a great start and is leading on the floor while Reinstadtler has a quiet persona and is battling back from injuries.

“She is one of our hardest workers and they see how hard she has worked,” Farden said. “It speaks volumes for all the work she has put in when no one is watching; she is very diligent.”

Soloski is the most outgoing of the three. She loves being in the leadoff role on vault and finishing the Utes’ floor rotation, two spots that garner a lot of focus.

“She is high energy and gregarious and kids gravitate to her,” Farden said. “She has developed and grown herself as a gymnast and now she is challenging the rest of the team."

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Top 25 Rankings

Ranking Team Average

1. Oklahoma 197.763

2. Florida 197.594

3. Utah 196.944

4. Denver 196.94

5. UCLA 196.925

6. Minnesota 196.763

7. Alabama 196.694

8. Michigan 196.681

9. LSU 196.645

10. Georgia 196.46

11. Washington 196.388

12. California 196.36

13. Kentucky 196.32

14. Nebraska 196.24

15. Arkansas 196.09

16. BYU 196.075

17. Auburn 196.065

18. Iowa St. 195.86

19. Maryland 195.75

20. Arizona 195.705

21. Missouri 195.685

22. Oregon St. 195.575

23. SUU 195.56

24. Stanford 195.31

25. Illinois 195.24