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Utah State, BYU, SUU and Utah gymnasts kick off their seasons at the Best of Utah meeting

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The biggest problem facing Number 4 Red Rocks: how to manage one of the team’s most talented roster ever

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cristal Isa reacts after competing on uneven bars, for Utah, during the PAC-12 Championship at Maverik Center, on Saturday, March 20, 2021.

Friday marked one of the most anticipated debuts for the Utah gymnastics team, even if fans aren’t really sure who they’ll be watching to compete for the fourth-placed Utes.

Utah fans at the Best of Utah gathering knew they would see BYU number 19, N0. 25 SUU and Utah State Friday at Maverik Center at 7 p.m. But Utah has such a talented roster that coach Tom Farden’s projected roster is just a sketch of who can compete.

“You have to decide with your guts before a lot of decisions,” he said. “Anyone who knows me knows I don’t mind doing it.”

Utah fans can expect that like the Red Rocks preview, veterans Maile O’Keefe, Cristal Isa and others will get their chance, but Farden will also want to see the newcomers that he doesn’t. What Grace McCallum, Amelie Morgan, and Sage Thompson can do in a college atmosphere.

Utah’s Best

Friday, 7pm

Maverik . Center

Utah, BYU, SUU, Utah St.

TELEVISION: BYUtv

Radio: ESPN 700

Although it is only the opening of the season, the event stands out for its importance as it is held in a podium setting similar to what the Utes will see in post-season.

“It was a costume rehearsal for us,” Farden said. “I’d love to see us tighten up on some things from the Red Rocks preview and the things we’ve worked on to improve.”

One of those areas is the vault. Farden hopes to have six 10.0 vaults in this year’s lineup, possibly sooner rather than later.

“We want to do things securely so we’ll wait until they’re ready, but we’ve been working on them,” he said.

Utah isn’t the only team with high expectations. The Cougars won the Mountain Rim Conference title last year and hope to continue to flourish under coach Guard Young. SUU is no stranger to the rankings and is once again featured after the end of 2021 as the 21st ranked team while Wyoming is just outside the Top 25.

Of course, the challenge for all teams is to stay safe during the recent COVID surge. Farden for someone who is watching the numbers rise in the hopes of possibly having as much of a regular season as possible. Farden said Utes is tested regularly and will wear a mask when possible.

“We were very diligent but you would be a fool not to worry,” he said. “One of the reasons Alexia Burch and Sydney (Soloski) are back for a fifth year is to compete in front of our fans and I certainly hope we can get through that.”

The other reason they come back is to complete some business. Soloski believes the team has climbed gradually without needing to finish last year’s third place.

“Pressure can help people and we wanted to show what we could do,” she said. “We won’t fear the pressure.”

https://www.sltrib.com/sports/jazz/2022/01/07/utah-byu-suu-utah-state/ Utah State, BYU, SUU and Utah gymnasts kick off their seasons at the Best of Utah meeting

Beth Allcock

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