A return to the past has already paid off in a big way for Jaylene Gilstrap and Utah gymnastics, with the potential for bigger gains going forward.

The senior made a notable switch to her floor exercise routine two weeks ago, when Utah was in Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies.

“She is such a gorgeous dancer and when she moves a little more fluid it shows how beautiful she is with her movement quality.” — Utah coach Carly Dockendorf on Jaylene Gilstrap

Rather than compete the routine that she debuted this season against Boise State — a “Zorro”-esque routine involving an imaginary rapier and foes — and which she had performed in five consecutive competitions to begin the year, Gilstrap went to back to her old “Bohemian Rhapsody”-themed routine.

The move paid off, as Gilstrap earned a season-high 9.925, only her second 9.9-plus of the year to that point.

Monday against UCLA in Los Angeles, Gilstrap again hit the 9.90 barrier, by yet again dancing and tumbling to Queen’s iconic hit. It was a score that helped the Red Rocks pull off a thrilling come-from-behind win over the rival Bruins.

The adjustment back to her old routine, one Gilstrap performed her sophomore and junior seasons, is unique among the Red Rocks.

The majority of the team is competing newly devised floor routines this season, with choreography and music designed to make Utah more competitive and dynamic when compared to their chief competitors. Think UCLA, LSU, Florida and Oklahoma.

By and large it has worked, too, as Utah is ranked No. 5 in the country on floor.

Yet Gilstrap has gone back to her old ways.

Why? Per Utah coach Carly Dockendorf, her old routine fits her better. Simple as that.

“Yeah, you know Jaylene’s routine this year is, we tried a different style of dance, a little more dynamic, a little more serious,” Dockendorf said. “I think that it didn’t really showcase her true artistry. She is such a gorgeous dancer and when she moves a little more fluid it shows how beautiful she is with her movement quality.

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“I also think that ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ routine really makes an emotional connection with the judges, even with our team and the fans. She doesn’t have the highest difficulty in tumbling so she really has to make up for it in her dance. I think the routine she had this year was good, but I think it was really holding her back from maximizing her floor score.”

The scores show that Dockendorf is right as Gilstrap failed to reach the 9.90 mark in four of the first five meets of the year, all while competing her new routine.

In the next two meets, though, with her competing her “Bohemian Rhapsody” routine, she has scored a 9.925 and a 9.90, and looked more and more comfortable every second.

Against UCLA, with the meet on the line during each routine on floor and beam, Gilstrap was excellent, a critical part of a Utah floor rotation that turned a deficit of .425 into a lead for the Red Rocks.

If that is the norm for Gilstrap when she competes her old floor routine, expect to hear more Queen from now until the end of the season.

Associate head gymnastics coach Carly Dockendorf fist-bumps Jaylene Gilstrap after Gilstrap’s beam routine on Dec. 9, 2022.
Utah gymnastics coach Carly Dockendorf fist-bumps Jaylene Gilstrap after Gilstrap’s beam routine during the University of Utah Red Rocks gymnastics preview at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News