Utah’s gymnasts begin their season with attractions set on a national title


Red Rocks returns to 23 of 24 routines while adding Olympian Grace McCallum to the roster

(Matt Strasen | AP) Maile O’Keefe of Utah competes on the floor during the NCAA women’s gymnastics championships in Fort Worth, Texas, last April. O’Keefe is at the forefront of the Utah team with lofty expectations this season.

Building a national fitness program requires a combination of factors. Take a little of this, a little of that, and a little luck, and the mixture will blend into a championship concoction.

This year, the Utes seem to have everything they need for their Master Chef-worthy moment. Utah coach Tom Farden has been a tireless recruiter, bringing in the most critically acclaimed rookie class in the show’s history. Experience is there, with Utah’s return 23 of 24 games earned the Utes third place in the 2021 NCAA Championship. There’s also heat, evident in the game. how the Utes were shuffled in their fourth place in the NCAA pre-season poll, behind Florida, the team the Utes beat at the NCAAs.

Indeed, if there was ever a Utah team about to experience the sweet taste of NCAA victory, it would be this team.

Team Utes, who started their season with the Best of Utah meet at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Maverik Center, aren’t hiding expectations either, if anything they’re pushing them higher.

Utah’s Best

Wyoming, BYU, SUU and Utah

January 7 at 7 p.m

At the Maverik Center

Case in point, the team’s response to the pre-season poll. It’s easy to say that they were fine with fourth place, but they didn’t and they let it be known after their Red Rocks preview. Maile O’Keefe said it added fuel to the fire and Sydney Soloski described it as “no offense” but also without high expectations.

“It’s flattering that they think we can get to the final day of the NCAAs,” she said. “But this team is back to all but one process and we have a class of four incredibly talented women taking part. We know we can do more than just get to the last day.”

One need only look at the list to see why Utes is so optimistic. The rookie class is said to be the most talented in history with Olympian Grace McCallum, Olympic substitute Kara Eaker, British Olympic athlete Amelie Morgan and young three-time Olympic champion Sage Thompson join the Utes.

At the heart of the team’s experience come O’Keefe student, who won the NCAA title on uneven bars and decks last year, Abby Paulson, an all-around American on the bar, senior Cristal Isa, an American four times. , and senior Adrienne Randall, who was always the front-runner to stand out in every meeting.

Experience plus leadership come to Alexia Burch and Soloski, who have chosen to return to work for the fifth year of their NCAA licensing due to the pandemic.

Utes has others pushing for a spot on the roster, giving the team the legit depth of eight gymnasts in every event. It’s a luxury Farden hasn’t had before, and he admits managing all that in-depth will be a great part of 2022.

“We will use it to our advantage,” he said. “But anyone who knows me knows I am not afraid to change our squad. You have to go with your gut a lot”.

The Utes will get the chance to play around with some of their lineups in the season opener as they face BYU, SUU and Utah State. But then it ramped up to full speed into the season with the opener at home to Oklahoma No 3, followed by the center of the Pac-12 schedule.

Challenges await there, but the team will be ready, Utes insisted. Utah is proud of what it has achieved in 2021 with a limited roster. This year the Utes don’t really see much of a restriction.

“This year won’t be real,” Burch said. “We delivered an extraordinary class of freshmen and the energy made everyone on the team push themselves. We have a lot of motivation and motivation. ”

Exercisers have been around long enough that they don’t take it for granted. They know teams like Oklahoma, Michigan, etc also have a lot of talent, but there are expectations this team will do very well. The team is pushing many of those expectations.

“If we can stay super healthy and stay mentally fit, I think we can do more than we ever thought we could,” O’Keefe said. O’Keefe said.

The game continues. Utah’s gymnasts begin their season with attractions set on a national title

Beth Allcock

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