For only the second time in school history, the Utah Red Rocks gymnastics program took a transfer when former Maryland gymnast Macey Roberts made the decision to come to Utah prior to the 2017 season. In her first season at Utah, Roberts has been an integral member of the Red Rocks team that is ranked No. 5 in the nation and finished the regular season 10-2, competing on both floor and vault.
“It was a chance lost,” said Marsden about Roberts’ recruitment. She was in the same class coming out of high school as sophomores Shannon McNatt, MaKenna Merrell, and Sabrina Schwab, the reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and freshman MyKayla Skinner, who delayed her enrollment at Utah for one year to try to make the 2016 Olympics. Because Utah already had commitments from four talented gymnasts, Roberts was “down our list,” according to Marsden. The McDonald, Tenn. native also got the opportunity from Maryland first and decided to take it and stay closer to home initially. Her time at Maryland however was short-lived as she decided to transfer after her freshman season.
“I knew I was transferring from Maryland. I had three options: [Utah], Georgia, or [Missouri]. Before I committed to Maryland, I was actually looking at [Utah], but the Maryland opportunity came first, so I felt like I needed to go with them. When I was looking to transfer, this was the first school that popped into my head. I came out here and absolutely loved it,” said Roberts.
Roberts was added to the team to add depth to the “leg events” (floor and vault) according to Red Rocks co-head coach Megan Marsden. This was due at least in part because of the medical retirement of former Utah gymnast Samantha Partyka prior to this season.
“We felt like we needed some depth on vault and floor, the leg events. We felt like we might be a little thin on those events, and she was available. She was looking for a more success oriented program. We had a need, and [co-head coach] Tom [Farden] knew a little bit about her club coach and knew of her. We started talking and once we got to know Macey through the recruiting process we fell in love with her. She did not seem to be the least bit frightened of some of the standards we have here in terms of work ethic and conditioning. There are expectations, and she seemed to want that. That’s what she was looking for in her career, so we welcomed her in. She has been nothing but a joy. Macey has a lot of great qualities. Not only is she providing depth on the two events like we had hoped, she is definitely doing that, but beyond that she has become a significant part of the team. She has a great personality. She is doing well in school. She has provided our team with somebody who came from a little different scenario. She came from a lower level situation and has surrounded herself with some of these greats and has not been afraid of that but has risen herself up to meet that caliber. It has been fun to watch,” said Marsden.
There were multiple factors that led to Roberts wanting to coming to Utah. One of the main reasons she wanted to transfer from Maryland was because she wanted to be on a team that competed at the highest level. Most college gymnasts retire from the sport after they graduate from school, so it is their last chance to compete in the sport they love.
“I wanted to go farther in gymnastics because these are my last four years in gymnastics. I wanted to reach my potential in gymnastics, and I knew coming here I could do that,” said Roberts.
The 15,000 fans that pack the Huntsman Center for every home meet is something Roberts has enjoyed since coming to Utah. It however did not play a factor in her decision to transfer to Utah.
“I didn’t really know about the fans until I got here,” said Roberts. “When all those people are watching, I get all these nerves. I do better when I have all these nerves, so it actually worked out better for me.”
Not only has Roberts added valuable depth, she has been embraced by her teammates. In less than a year, her attitude and work ethic have made her very popular with her teammates. Roberts had a huge step up in expectation and conditioning coming to Utah from Maryland. For her to take all of those challenges in stride and not complain really won her over with her teammates “in four to six weeks,” according to Marsden. Sophomore Kari Lee, who is in the same year as Roberts, raved about her new teammate.
“We love her so much. She has brought this bubbly, live personality into the program. It is hard to imagine Utah gymnastics without her now because she has been with us for this whole year. She has brought so much happiness to this team this year. I have never experienced someone transferring. It was difficult for her because that whole transition starting brand new at a different school in a different state. She handled it like a true champion. She hopped right into the program and was willing to do what it takes to be a top five team,” said Lee.
Lee’s thoughts were echoed by junior Tiffani Lewis, who also praised Roberts for the attitude she brings to the team.
“Oh my gosh, we love her on the team. She adds a new attitude. She is very upbeat and funny and makes everything very light. She is very confident in what she does which allows us to be confident in what she can do for our team. It is a like breath of fresh air. Her story is so unique and so fun. She is an amazing person. We are so thankful to have her in our lives now,” said Lewis.
Roberts may have taken an unconventional path to Utah, being only the second gymnast to transfer to Utah in school history, but her role on the team is anything but atypical. She has been embraced by her teammates and has adapted to the higher standards of Utah gymnastics. Her hard work and personality have made her a key member of a team that is trying to win their third Pac-12 Championship and 11th national championship this season.