The Utah Red Rocks capped their 2018 season in a very similar fashion to how they ended their 2017 season, with a fifth-place finish (196.900) at the NCAA Championships in the Super Six. The Red Rocks has the same rotation order in 2018 in St. Louis that they had in 2017 in Fort Worth. While the Red Rocks had an inopportune time for a bye (the third and sixth and final rotation), they had an opportunity to come out with a bang, starting on their two best events, floor and vault. Instead, Utah posted season-low scores in both events, essentially taking the Red Rocks out of competition by the halfway point in the meet. The rival UCLA Bruins would ultimately win to claim the national championship. Behind UCLA (198.075) was Oklahoma (198.0375), Florida (197.8500), LSU (197.8375), Utah (196.9000) and Nebraska (196.8000).
”It was déjà vu starting on the floor exercise and shooting ourselves in the foot,” said co-head coach Tom Farden. “We improved some on vault but at halftime I said, ‘Just be yourselves. We don’t know who is putting pressure on you, but it’s not us (coaches).’ When we came out of the bye, our performance on bars and beam were what we should have done on the other events.”
MyKayla Skinner had a nice meet, posting a 39.625 in the all-around. She closed out the meet with a 9.925 to lift Utah above Nebraska to finish fifth. For the first time in 2018, beam was the event where Utah had the highest score in a meet. Skinner has not fallen in her Utah career, hitting all 110 routines in a row, including all 54 this year. Her streak of 110 hit routines in a row is believed to be an NCAA record.
”It didn’t turn out how we wanted,” said Skinner. “Without those mistakes (on floor), we would have done a lot better but we went out and relaxed on the last two events. When we do our routines the way we can, we are amazing. This was a learning experience and will push us harder for next season.”
Like last season at the NCAA Championships, the young team again seemed to put too much pressure on themselves, leading to the shaky start. Junior MaKenna Merrell-Giles said, ”We pressed too much and tried too hard to be perfect instead of having fun and competing how we train every day. On bars and beam, we settled down and did our gymnastics.”
A rough start on floor where mistakes abounded was followed up by a vault set where only junior Kari Lee stuck her dismount. Utah performed better in the second-half of the meet, but it was too late to catch the leads of the meet.
”We’re going to keep looking for ways to compete with confidence on every event on the national stage,” said Farden. “We’ll keep our chins high and we are excited about the future.”
The future is bright for the Red Rocks with 20-of-24 routines returning next season.