SALT LAKE CITY—A crowd of 5,200 got a glimpse of what's around the corner in 2019 at the Red Rocks Preview in the Huntsman Center Friday and the outlook is bright. Three highly-touted freshmen debuted and nearly every returner unveiled new elements or new routines.
A dozen Utes performed on at least one event with MaKenna Merrell-Giles
, MyKayla Skinner
and Alexia Burch
going all-around. Freshman Cammy Hall
—a projected starter on vault and floor—is out for the season following surgery and Kim Tessen
was sidelined with mono. Missy Reinstadtler
, Adrienne Randall
, Cristal Isa
and Hunter Dula
would have gone all-around if not for minor ailments.
Still, the lineups were stocked and co-head coach Tom Farden
's first comment to the media when asked about his thoughts was, "We have talent and depth."
With the season a month away, there were a few hiccups—namely two falls on bars and a few breaks on beam—but the last six bar workers hit their routines and vault and floor were outstanding. On beam, Farden singled out senior Shannon McNatt
and Randall for praise.
"Shannon did a really nice job and Adrienne is a fantastic beam worker. She is a lock on beam and showed how calm she is as a freshman. (Co-head coach) Megan (Marsden) and I wanted to be open minded and see who was ready to compete under pressure," said Farden.
The fans were in for a treat on floor exercise where nearly virtually every routine was new, either in its choreography, tumbling, music or all three.
"The entertainment value on floor for Utah gymnastics went up a notch," said Farden, attributing the changes in part to first-year volunteer choreographer BJ Das
, whose credits include the Emmy Awards.
Junior MyKayla Skinner
was one who showcased a new routine and hit it so cleanly she served notice that she's ready to add to her NCAA championships (she has two in her first to seasons). "BJ has been awesome and has made great changes to my routine," said Skinner. "I'm really enjoying myself with this new routine."
Along with Skinner's, the crowd also particularly engaged with floor routines by Macey Roberts
, Kari Lee
, Merrell-Giles and Sydney Soloski
The structure of the exhibition, which was televised live on Pac-12 Networks, featured the equivalent of six rotations. The Utes competed as one group on vault and did the same on bars before splitting into Red and White teams for beam and floor and alternating routines.
Fans enjoyed a rare opportunity to watch the meet from a new vantage point. Seating for the exhibition meet was general admission, unlike the regular season, where more than 9,300 reserved season tickets have already been sold. Many stayed afterwards for an autograph session.
The Utes will open their 2019 season against Penn State on Sat., Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Huntsman Center.