The future remains bright for the University of Utah’s women’s gymnastics program.
Three gymnasts — all 5-star recruits as rated by College Gym News — signed with the Red Rocks Wednesday as the national signing period opened.
Elizabeth Gantner, Camie Winger and Ella Zirbes will join the Red Rocks as members of Utah’s 2023 class and will begin competing for the Utes in January 2024.
(Utah can still add additional signees, as the signing period extends until Aug. 1 2023)
“We are thrilled to have three incredible young women with outstanding talent join our Utah gymnastics family,” head coach Tom Farden said in a statement. “They all come from wonderful families and nationally recognized clubs. Each of these future Red Rocks have shown that they thrive under pressure, and we believe they have what it takes to keep our program among the elite in NCCA gymnastics.”
Utah’s class ranks as the fifth-best in the country, behind only Georgia, Stanford, Oklahoma and Alabama.
Gantner, Winger and Zirbes are each top-16 recruits (there are 21 total 5-star recruits nationally in the 2023 class) with Gantner rated No. 4 overall.
How good are the latest batch of Red Rocks? What can be expected of them? Once again Utah reeled in an elite collection of gymnasts.
Who is Elizabeth Gantner?
Gantner, an Indianapolis, Indiana, native, is the top-rated gymnast in Utah’s 2023 class and her accolades speak to why.
She was the 2021 national champion (Level 10) on balance beam and uneven bars, and the national runner-up in the all-around.
Gantner then made the leap to elite gymnastics and competed twice at both the U.S. Classic and American Classic.
She is an eight-time region champion and 12-time regional medalist, as well as a six-time Indiana state champion on vault and floor.
Gantner has clear all-around potential, with her strongest events being bars and beam.
“Elizabeth comes to us after competing at the international elite level and as a multiple (Junior Olympic) national champion, which bodes well for the future success of her NCAA career,” Farden said. “She is an intelligent and resilient woman, which has attributed to her successes both in the classroom and in competitions.
“We believe she will shine on the Huntsman floor as a multiple lineup contributor. She shines on the intricate events and has also competed two different 10.0 start-value vaults which is incredible.”
Who is Camie Winger?
Winger is a native Utahn, from Orem, and has long ties with Utah’s program.
Assistant coach Jimmy Pratt coached Winger at All-American Gymnastics for most of her life in the sport (he left club gymnastics for the NCAA ranks in 2020). Former Utah All-American MaKenna Merrell-Giles — an All-American alumna — also coached Winger briefly after she finished her collegiate career.
Like Gantner, Winger had a stellar career as a Level 10, and finished as national runner-up on bars in 2021 and then on floor in 2022.
She is a five-time region champion and 10-time regional medalist and one of the state of Utah’s best gymnasts.
She was the floor champion and runner-up on bars at the 2022 state championships and has never placed outside the top-four in the all-around at the state championships.
Winger should compete immediately for spot in Utah’s lineup on floor.
“We’ve had the honor of getting to know Camie at our camps for the past several years,” Farden said. “She has a spunky personality with a deep-rooted passion for our sport. Camie has been very consistent on the biggest stages and we believe that will translate well in her future as a Red Rock.
“We see her fighting for several lineup positions as a freshman. Our fans will love this local athlete and her well-executed skill set. She has power, grace, and artistry that we are beyond excited to welcome.”
Who is Ella Zirbes?
The latest in a recent slew of Minnesotans to sign with Utah, Zirbes, a Stillwater, Minnesota, native, is a national champion, having won the all-around and on bars at the 2019 Junior Olympic championships.
Zirbes, like Gantner, is also a former elite gymnast, who competed in the 2019 U.S. Championships, U.S. Classic, American Classic and World Championship trials.
Zirbes is a seven-time region champion, with titles in the all-around, and on bars, floor and vault.
A dominant competitor in Minnesota, Zirbes is also a 14-time state champion.
Zirbes should eventually compete for a spot in the all-around at Utah, and she will be in immediate contention to make the bars lineup upon her arrival in Salt Lake City.
“Ella is another former international elite from Minnesota that has an extremely strong technical foundation in her skills,” Farden said. “She excels on every event, but thousands of Red Rocks fans will especially take note of her impeccable form on bars where she is a national champion.
“She comes to us with an eye catching 10.0 vault and her clean execution on every event will be an asset for our program. From the moment we started recruiting her, we saw the dedication and work ethic as a perfect 10.0 fit for our program.”