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Sydney Soloski has defied convention this season and it’s paying off for Utah gymnastics

Soloski added vault to her repertoire as a junior, an addition rare among upperclassmen at the collegiate level

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Utah’s Sydney Soloski competes in the floor event as Utah gymnasts host Kentucky to kick off the 2020 season in the Huntsman Center at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. 

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Sydney Soloski has done the atypical.

No, the effervescent junior didn’t grow in stature over the first month of the year. She is still 4-foot-something, despite being generously listed at an even 5 feet tall on Utah gymnastics’ roster.

“Never did I expect that I would actually be in the vault lineup, let alone get a career win on that event.” — Utah junior Sydney Soloski

She hasn’t earned the first perfect 10 of her college career, either, though if her performance on floor exercise in Utah’s win over Arizona on Feb. 1 was any indication, that may be coming sooner than you’d think.

She hasn’t, as of yet, made Red Rocks fans forget about glorious yesteryear, nor has she stopped them from dreaming about future seasons with prospective Olympians in tow. 

What Soloski has done this season, though, as described by Utah head coach Tom Farden, is both “rare” and “brilliant.”

What could the Calgary native have possibly done to warrant those descriptors?

She added a competition-ready vault to her repertoire. More than that, she added an event-winning vault, which she showed off in the win over the Wildcats.

At surface value, it might seem hyperbolic to describe the addition of a vault as both rare and brilliant. Many gymnasts compete on vault successfully throughout their careers, and those at Utah are no different. The Red Rocks are ranked No. 7 in the country on the event, and multiple athletes, including Kim Tessen and Alexia Burch, have earned a score of 9.95 on vault this season.

Soloski was never supposed to be one of those gymnasts, though.

From the moment she arrived at Utah in the summer of 2017, she never had any intention of tackling the vault. Injuries, specifically those of the shoulder variety, made it so the event was never even on her radar as a freshman and sophomore. Instead, she leaned into floor exercise, where she is an NCAA All-American and a fan-favorite, as well as balance beam.

Having made it through two seasons without training on vault, Soloski shouldn’t have even attempted it this year. By the time a gymnast reaches their junior season and becomes an upperclassmen they are, in most cases, locked into whatever events they do and do not compete on. As explained by Farden, “for anyone at her stage of her career to add an event, that is pretty rare.”

Rare as it is, that didn’t stop Farden and assistant coach Garrett Griffeth from approaching Soloski this summer and asking her to add vault. Utah needed it.

As much as the Red Rocks might have needed it, her initial response was completely understandable.


Utah’s Sydney Soloski performs on the floor during the Arizona State and University of Utah gymnastics meet at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.  

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

“I was very against it,” she said. “I hadn’t done it in years and with my shoulder injuries I was like, ‘This isn’t a good idea.’”

What ultimately swayed her was her teammates. As one of three team captains for Utah this season, along with seniors Missy Reinstadtler and Kim Tessen, Soloski felt a responsibility to do whatever she could for the benefit of her fellow Red Rocks, even if that meant adding vault.

“I thought, ‘I need to be open-minded for everyone else,’” she said.

While the decision to add vault was hard enough, training on it proved much more so. And for Soloski, who at times in her career has relied more on her innate ability to shine in competitive meets rather than preparation — “She has always been good at pulling it out at a meet when she needs to,” Reinstadtler said. “That part comes naturally to her” —  it meant she needed to have the best preseason of her career.

Shouldering new responsibility, she did just that.

“I thought she had a brilliant preseason,” said Farden. 

Even with that, Soloski never imagined she’d be in the actual vault lineup this season. In her mind, she was an insurance policy. And yet, on opening night against Kentucky there was Soloski, leading off Utah’s vault lineup.

She has continued in that leadoff role through the season, but even that hasn’t come without its challenges. After earning a 9.80 on her first ever collegiate vault, the next two meets were steps back for Soloski, both at the Best of Utah and at home against ASU.

Utah-Cal gym

About No. 12 California

Co-head coaches: Justin Howell and Elisabeth Crandall-Howell (eighth year)

Record: 6-4, 1-2 Pac-12

Notes: Cal is ranked No. 6 nationally on uneven bars and is led by three all-arounders — Maya Bordas, Kyana George and Nevaeh DeSouza. … George is tied for No. 5 in the nation on vault and No. 21 on beam, and scored a team-high 39.575 in the all-around vs. Stanford. … Sophomore Milan Clausi is the daughter of former Ute All-American, NCAA champion and Olympian Missy Marlowe and former Utah football player Joe Clausi.

At Arizona, though, all the hard work and the defiance of convention paid off in a way she never expected. Soloski earned a 9.875 against the Wildcats, a vault that would prove to be the best done by any gymnast in the meet. It was arguably the best vault of her entire gymnastics career.

“That was probably the best of my gymnastics career in general,” she said. “Never did I expect that I would actually be in the vault lineup, let alone get a career win on that event. It was a really rewarding moment, knowing that the hard work I’ve put in and the adversity I’ve had to face paid off.”

Even with the win, Soloski would give up vault if she could. 

“If it was my choice, I don’t know if I would necessarily choose to continue doing it,” she said with a laugh. 

Don’t worry Utah fans, she won’t — “I do it for the other 12 girls,” she said — to the Red Rocks’ benefit.

Red Rocks on the air

No. 3 Utah (6-0, 2-0 Pac-12) at No. 12 California (6-4, 1-2)

Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, California

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MST

TV: Pac-12 Networks