Utah gymnastics fans might want to check their calendars before attending the Utes’ Red Rocks preview at the Huntsman Center Friday. For what they see might persuade them to think this is January, not December.
Utah coach Tom Farden said his team has been in full routines for almost a month now. While he called that “normal,” being competition ready could be a sign that the Utes are ready to pick up where they left off in 2021-22.
The Utes return 21-of-24 routines from a team that placed third at the NCAA Championships, won the Pac-12 regular season and second-straight Pac-12 Championship and the NCAA regional title.
If the Utes are ready now, what will January bring when they host LSU in the season opener Jan. 6?
Utah Red Rocks
Friday, 7 p.m. MT
TV: Pac-12 Networks
For one, expect a lot of focus on the vault. That was the one sent where Farden believed the Utes could improve by fielding more 10.0 vaults.
The Utes finished the 2022 season ranked fifth with a national qualifying score of 49.4. Michigan led the country averaging 49.610.
Already the Utes have six gymnasts — Lucy Stanhope, Sage Thompson, Makenna Smith, Jaedyn Rucker, Abby Brenner and Grace McCallum — who are working 10.0 vaults.
Brenner, a transfer from Michigan, was an All-American on the event.
“We know with risks come rewards,” Farden said. “We had some fantastic fulls that came close to scoring what the one-and-a-halfs can. But we wanted to beef up some areas from last year.”
Bringing Brenner into the fold certainly helps since she not only has skills but experience after helping Michigan win a national title.
She is expected to help on the uneven bars in addition to the vault.
“She is a joy to coach and work with,” Farden said. “She has a maturity to her and is a true student of the sport. Her gymnastics is clean and consistent.”
Other newcomers fans will see are Smith and Sarah Krump. Smith is a two-time floor medalist at the Junior Olympic National Championships and Krump was fourth on the balance beam at the 2021 Junior Olympic National Championships.
Even though the Utes have a veteran team, Farden said Smith could have a big impact in her rookie year since she currently is in the vault, bars and floor lineups and is the first alternate on the beam.
All of the veterans will get some time in the Red Rocks preview except for Cristal Isa, who is nursing a sprained ankle.
Farden plans to put eight gymnasts on each event instead of splitting them into teams, which will give a little more accurate reflection of what lineups could be.
“We want to get dialed in so we are tight and clean,” he said.