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Utah gymnastics: Red Rocks rejuvenated and healthy heading into regionals

Utah's MyKayla Skinner, left, celebrates her bars routine during the Penn State versus University of Utah gymnastics meet at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.
Utah's MyKayla Skinner, left, celebrates her bars routine during the Penn State versus the University of Utah gymnastics meet at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Exhausted.

That is the best and only way to describe the state of each and every Utah gymnast following the Pac-12 Championships.

The competition, which famously included a season-best team score of 198.025, not to mention a perfect 10 by MyKayla Skinner, drained the Red Rocks in every way imaginable.

That exhaustion carried into the next week too, through the announcement of the NCAA tournament bracket and even to this last weekend.

“We were emotionally and physically exhausted,” Kari Lee said.

“We were all really tired,” Skinner added. “I felt like I was dying all week. I was like, ‘what the heck, this is weird.’”

The Red Rocks were in desperate need of some time off and they got it over the weekend.

“I know they were all ready for a little rest,” co-head coach Megan Marsden said. “The fact that we had a relatively nice weekend was probably good for them.”

Now, with regionals beckoning, Utah is ready to go.

“I think they are good.” Marsden said. “The team knows it is a meet week and things are really starting to rise back up again. They can’t be up, emotionally on fire, all the time, but today and tomorrow they will be.”

“I feel better,” added Skinner. “Getting a break and taking it down a notch I think really helped. I think we are at the right place and are ready to build it back up.”

The bye week did more than just alleviate the effects of exhaustion, however.

It also enabled the team to manage any and all injury concerns.

As a result, the Red Rocks are as healthy as they could be at this point in the season.

“We feel like we are managing the (ailments) that we have well,” said Marsden. “The girls help us with that, and Katie (Lorens) and our doctors. I think we have done a good job at this point managing things. Some girls have had things that have hurt them all season, but we feel good about where they are.”

No one feels better than Skinner.

Laid low by an ankle/foot injury in the middle of the year, the junior is all but completely healed.

“It has definitely improved a lot,” she said. “I don’t even really notice it anymore, which is really nice. I am still taping it, just because I don’t want to make anything worse, but it hasn’t bothered me on floor at all. It has been nice to feel normal again.”

NO MORE LINEUP CHANGES: Don’t expect to see any new faces in the lineup, on any event, come Friday’s meet against BYU, Minnesota and Arkansas.

The Red Rocks are all in on the lineups that have enabled them peak to close out the year.

That means Lee, Hunter Dula, Kim Tessen, MaKenna Merrell-Giles, Missy Reinstadtler and Skinner will compete on uneven bars.

Lee, Alexia Burch, Sydney Soloski, Adrienne Randall, Merrell-Giles and Skinner will all compete on balance beam, while Lee, Macey Roberts, Burch, Merrell-Giles, Skinner and Tessen will do so on vault.

As for the floor lineup, it remains Roberts, Lee, Randall, Soloski, Merrell-Giles and Skinner.

“I don’t think there will be changes in lineup,” said Marsden. “We feel good about that.”

BEAM BOOT CAMP: Merrell-Giles coined the phrase ‘beam boot camp’ following Utah’s much improved beam performance against UCLA earlier in the year, as a description of the training the Red Rocks went through to improve on the apparatus.

Last week, the team was once again subjected to military-esque training.

“Thursday and Friday were pretty intense. We did one of Tom’s (Farden) crazy boot camp assignments, so we had to push ourselves,” Skinner said. “It was hard, but it was a good push.”

It wasn’t just beam that the gymnasts worked on, and floor exercise was actually the biggest challenge of all.

“We had full floor routines and it was the first time we had tumbled since Pac-12s,” said Skinner. “It was hard. We were dying, trying to push through it.”