FORT WORTH, Texas — Utah’s gymnastics team will leave Texas without a national title after finishing third at the 2022 NCAA championships, but for the rest of her life, Jaedyn Rucker will be known as a national champion.
That is because Rucker won the individual title on vault during the semifinals of the national championships on Thursday.
And while the Red Rocks weren’t always at their best during Saturday’s title-deciding competition, Rucker was, her vault besting even her national title winning performance.
Go back a year ago, and Rucker was elite on vault then too, recording a 9.9875 in the final competition of the 2021 season.
All of these performances have something in common, namely that Rucker competed them inside Dickies Arena.
What is it about Fort Worth and this particular arena that brings out the best in Rucker?
Even she doesn’t really know.
“I don’t really know why it is different, other than I know what it feels and looks like (here),” Rucker said.
What she does know is that she loves vault. Throw in the set up at nationals, on podium, and something magical seems to happen nearly every time she competes.
“I personally love the the vault and I like vaulting on podium because it is bouncier. It gives me more bonus height,” Rucker said.
“When I feel good I know it is going to be good, and I really liked the bounce here.”
This year, she was helped by Utah assistant coach Jimmy Pratt. In his first year at Utah, Pratt consistently tells Rucker to “live in the moment.”
Despite the individual title from Thursday to her name, Rucker managed to do just that in her latest performance.
Rucker didn’t get caught up in either of her previous performances at nationals and provided the lone highlight of Utah’s vault rotation Saturday.
“I just thought, ‘You’ve done it once, why not do it again,’” Rucker said.
Rucker is quick to deflect praise for her individual achievements, preferring to focus instead on her team, and while she conceded that Utah wasn’t at its best Saturday, she wouldn’t change her situation.
“Obviously we let a couple of things go (today), but I’m blessed,” Rucker said. “We have so much talent, so much heart and it is fun to do it with this group of people. All of this is so much fun.”