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5 Utah gymnasts earn All-America honors

Kim Tessen, Sydney Soloski, Maile O’Keefe, Abby Paulson and Cristal Isa were all named second team WCGA All-Americans

(Clockwise from left to right) Utah gymnasts Abby Paulson, Kim Tessen, Cristal Isa, Maile O’Keefe and Sydney Soloski. All were named WCGA All-Americans for the 2020 regular season.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Laura Seitz, Steve Griffin; Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Heading into the 2020 season, Utah’s gymnastics team was young and inexperienced. Nothing spoke to that more than the number of All-Americans on the roster. Utah had just two — senior Missy Reinstadtler and junior Sydney Soloski.

Heading into the 2021 season, the number of All-Americans at Utah will be significantly greater.

Five Utah gymnasts were named regular season All-Americans by the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Tuesday morning — senior Kim Tessen, sophomore Cristal Isa, freshmen Abby Paulson and Maile O’Keefe, and Soloski.

“To garner All-America awards, to have five of them, speaks volumes,” Utah head coach Tom Farden said.

Athletes with the top eight national qualifying scores (NQS) for the regular season (including ties) on each event and in the all-around earned first team All-America honors. Gymnasts that ranked No. 9-16 (with ties) earned second team All-America honors. The NQS scores are based on meets that occurred prior to the cancelation of the season.

Tessen and Isa earned honors on multiple events.

Tessen earned second-team honors on vault and the uneven bars. She finished the year ranked No. 9 in the nation on both events. Tessen was the Red Rocks’ anchor and posted career-highs of 10.0 on vault and 9.975 on bars, while scoring a 9.90 on at least one event in every meet this season.

“I think her mentality improved,” said Farden. “She was the aggressor. She used to wait for things to come to her, but her attitude totally changed. She walked up to events thinking ‘I am one of the best NCAA gymnasts, hands down.’”

University of Utah gymnast Cristal Isa competes on the uneven bars in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 6, 2020.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Isa, meanwhile, also earned a pair of second-team selections. Hers came on balance beam (No. 9) and bars (No. 16). Isa scored a 9.90 or higher on beam in five consecutive meets, a run that included three consecutive scores of 9.95. On bars, she scored a 9.875 or higher in seven of nine meets.

“That is a taste of what Cristal is capable of,” said Farden, “Big scores everywhere.”

Paulson and O’Keefe joined Isa on beam with second-team honors. Paulson tied for No. 9 in the nation, while O’Keefe tied for No. 13. Paulson scored a 9.90 or better in seven of nine meets and earned Utah’s first 10.0 on beam since 2008. O’Keefe closed out the season with six consecutive scores above 9.90, which included two scores of 9.975.

“Those two headlined the freshmen class and really showed, I believe, the NCAA what they are capable of,” said Farden.

Sydney Soloski competes on floor during the Utah Red Rocks’ competition against Oregon State at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020.
Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

Soloski, the last of Utah’s All-Americans, earned second team honors on floor exercise (No. 11). She scored at least a 9.90 in six meets, including three scores of 9.95.

“We know she is just a talent on floor and she proved that again,” said Farden.

All five Red Rocks earned the first regular season All-America honors of their careers. Soloski’s previous honor was of the NCAA variety, won at nationals in 2018.

“On paper we had a lot of talent,” said Farden. “We were just so young and inexperienced. For them to be that consistent, and you have to be to gain that distinguished distinction, I am pleasantly surprised, of course.”

WCGA regular-season All-Americans

*All second team

  • Vault — Kim Tessen
  • Uneven bars — Kim Tessen, Cristal Isa
  • Balance beam — Abby Paulson, Maile O’Keefe, Cristal Isa
  • Floor exercise — Sydney Soloski