A Whole New World for Utah Red Rocks Freshman Maddy Stover

Utah fans will be cheering the defending Pac-12 champions in 2015, but it will be the freshman who may determine if the Red Rocks successfully defend their title. - USA TODAY Sports

California freshman Maddy Stover says pressure is just part of being a gymnast, and she's excited to make an immediate impact for the defending Pac-12 champion Utah Utes.

It's a whole new world for Utes freshman all-around gymnast Maddy Stover. The Southern California native has had to make many new adjustments, a new school, a new state, new coaches, a new team, and the pressure of performing for one of the most storied programs in collegiate gymnastics. But while the initial takeoff may be rough for any newcomer, Stover's determined to stick the landing as an immediate contributor for Utah's Red Rocks.

Stover's first weeks on the hill were a bit of a whirlwind. The freshman gymnasts moved in on a Monday, had their first practice on Thursday, and did a lot acclimating in between. Luckily, Stover's energy and sunny attitude allowed her quickly adjust, and she found those first days to be fun and challenging.

"It's always fun coming into a new coaching staff and team," Stover said.

Utah began recruiting Stover as a sophomore in high school, so she has already developed strong relationships with the coaching staff and watched how they run their program.

"I've always loved Greg, Megan, and Tom," said Stover. "They've always had a family feeling to them."

That sense of family has helped Stover to quickly make the transition to college co-ed and student athlete. She said it's been different for each of the four freshmen, each taking their own time to adjust, but they are all in it together... literally. The four girls share a dorm room, or suite, rather, where each can close their bedroom door at night, but all share the same common space. They've also competed together previously at Junior Olympics.

"It was cool to build a relationship before we got here," Stover said.

Stover is an all-around gymnast (competing on all four of the apparatus, beam, vault, uneven bars and floors), but she is also a beam specialist. She finished fourth all-around on the beam in the Junior Olympics and has grown to love competing on it. She hopes to immediately be a strong contributor on the beam for the Utes. In fact, Stover can't wait to be an important component on the Utes squad and everything else that comes with it. Since gymnastics isn't a high school sanctioned sport, Stover has never been able to compete for her school and can't wait to have that interaction between her sport and her fellow students. She also is thrilled to be amongst so many top-level Division I athletes from other sports.

"It's pretty cool to be a part of that," she said.

In the meantime before school starts, Stover s just focused on maintaining all of her skills and employing new techniques suggested by the coaching staff. She is eager to learn and adjust to the coaching style of Greg and Megan Marsden and hopes to soon be a gymnast on whom the coaches feel they can rely. Stover hopes to compete in all of the events as soon as possible and is ready for the pressure that comes along with the popularity of Utah gymnastics. The spotlight that is on the women and pressure to win championships is no big deal to Stover, who says that pressure is just part of the package when you're a gymnast.

"We deal with a lot of pressure," Stover said. "It's something you learn to cope with."

She says it's this calmness under pressure that also allows her to be such a strong beam worker.

"Being on a four-inch beam, you have to be able to focus," she said.

The only thing that Stover is a little nervous about is the team aspect of being a Utah gymnast. She has been competing individually all of her life, so this year will be her first time competing with a team that is depending on her success. She admits that it has added a little stress and will take some adjusting, but is still very excited to be a Red Rock. Stover has some Utah meets and witnessed first-hand the packed Huntsman Center arena and exuberant fans.

"It's cool and unique," Stover said. "That will be new and good for adrenaline. I'm excited to see how that affects my gymnastics. That will be exciting."

It will be a year of firsts for Stover and the other three (new coaches, new school, new team experience, and a bit of local celebrity as one of the most popular University of Utah sports), basically a whole new life, but it's one for which Stover can't wait.

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