Utah gymnast Sydney Soloski loves performing in front of the Huntsman Center’s huge crowds, the experience is one of the reasons she decided to return for a fifth year.
The other reason? She looks at the grey banner hanging in the Utes’ practice gym before answering. It is the banner that signifies Utah’s seventh-place finish in 2019, when Soloski was just a sophomore chipping in on the balance beam and floor.
Since then she has grown into one of Utah’s best floor performers and the most outspoken leader on the team. To that end, she doesn’t mind voicing her expectations for the 2022 Utes.
“I think we are our biggest competitor,” she said. “I watch practice every day and I have never seen a team training that has won a national championship, but I have a feeling that this is what it looks like.”
Soloski doesn’t speak out when she is talking about the national scene. When it comes to the Utes, she often is one of the first to acknowledge if the team falls short, which gets back to that disapproving glance at Utah’s disappointing finish in 2019.
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Since then Soloski has felt like the Utes are on an upward swing. She wants to be a part of the group that finishes the rise.
“If you look at our roster, we are talented,” she said. “We have a lot of depth returning and only are missing one routine from last year. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves but we know what this team is capable of. Last year we were scrapping up people to go in the lineups. This year we are in a much better situation.”
Where Soloski fits into the plans is clear, she specialized on floor last year and will do so again this season. There might be times when she isn’t in the lineup at all, if coach Tom Farden fiddles with the lineups like he likes to do.
Soloski is agreeable to all of those possible scenarios.
She has been a natural leader throughout her career and now she gets to focus on that aspect of her gymnastics. She sees that role as important and fulfilling as competing.
“I am in a unique position,” Soloski said. “Just doing one event and as a fifth year, focusing floor allows me to be a more vocal captain. I can do more at the meets keeping everyone pumped up, helping them get unstressed and that type of thing. What I’m getting to do is so unique. I’m so grateful.”
Sometimes, in the focus on stats, lineups, competition, etc., the importance of leadership can be lost. Farden though, never forgets.
He appreciates too that Soloski isn’t just some voice, calling out her teammates when they fall short.
“To have leadership from the peers is absolutely critical,” he said. “It’s a component that doesn’t get enough credit and Sydney backs up her talk. She is our No. 1 floor worker and when the meet is on the line, she is able to deliver.”
While happy with her time at Utah thus far, Soloski is clear she’d like to leave with one last achievement, winning a national title. Being the veteran she is, she senses how close the Utes are to the top and is determined to push the team as much as she can.
“We want to test ourselves against the best,” she said. “We want to win the Pac-12, win the regional and make it to the Final Four and see how we do on that day. I don’t think there is a lot of limitations on this team.”