Utah gymnasts strut their stuff in an empty Huntsman Center to get their ‘21 season going

Utes fairly clean in their routines during annual Red Rocks Preview

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

An empty arena and piped in music greeted Utah’s gymnastics team as it held the annual Red Rocks preseason event at the Huntsman Center on Wednesday.

It wasn’t the usual festive atmosphere the gymnasts are accustomed to in their home arena, but the gymnastics at least seemed to be up to Utah standards.

Despite getting a late start to their training due to restrictions in place for COVID-19, the Utes were fairly clean in their routines.

Standouts were senior Alexia Burch, with sticks on her vault and bars, and junior Cristal Isa, who had a nice vault, stuck her bars and had a strong beam routine set with her chosen rap music going in the background.

Official scores weren’t kept, but the Utes avoided many major breaks and were particularly clean on their uneven bars landings.

“After today I would say we are close to catching up with where we were last year,” Burch said. “We are going to be ready.”

Utah only used six on the vault with Sydney Soloski held out after she tweaked a hamstring. Several Utes took steps on their landings, but that wasn’t surprising given the team’s lack of hard landings at this point in the training.

“We were trying to work on that and replicate everything in practice but we knew that was going to hit us a bit,” Isa said.

Utah’s schedule still hasn’t been announced officially by the Pac-12. However, the Utes are still planning to open the season with the Jan. 9 Best of Utah meet at the Maverik Center in West Valley against Southern Utah, Utah State and Brigham Young.

The Utes are using “Unfinished,” as their slogan this year, hoping to pick up where they left off when the season ended abruptly in March.

The Utes feel they are on track for that after Wednesday’s effort.

“We like the direction we are going,” Utah coach Tom Farden said. “It’s a good jumping off point. This was a different environment with the judges. We have a lot of work to do but we are pleased with today.”