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Utah gymnastics signs Alani Sabado, rounds out incoming freshmen class

Utah head coach Tom Farden, left, and assistant coach Garrett Griffeth celebrate Alexia Burch’s vault routine during the Arizona State meet on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. 
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah’s incoming class of gymnasts just became a little more highly touted.

The Red Rocks announced the addition of Alani Sabado to the 2020-21 class on Monday, after the Temecula, California, native signed a national letter of intent. Sabado is the fourth member of the Red Rocks’ latest recruiting class, joining Deanne Soza, Jaylene Gilstrap and Lucy Stanhope, who all signed with the program in November 2019.

Sabado, a three-time Junior Olympic qualifier, is joining Utah a year earlier than expected, after she committed to the Red Rocks in August this past year.

”Alani is an incredibly dedicated student-athlete,” Utah head coach Tom Farden said in a release. “Her work ethic and focus (are) why we started tracking her several years ago. We are excited that she chose to join our program a little earlier than planned.”

Sabado’s immediate strengths lie on the uneven bars and floor exercise, said Farden, though the hope is that she may find her way into the lineup on all four events at some point in her college career.

“We do believe that she could make impacts on all events, but she will be an immediate lineup contender on both bars and floor,” Farden said.

In her last Junior Olympics national championship appearance nearly a year ago, Sabado finished third in the all-around and on bars, fifth on vault, sixth on balance beam and eighth on floor.

At the 2019 So-Cal State Championships, she placed second on vault, third on bars, fourth on beam and in the all-around.

Sabado is also an eight-time state champion in Virginia. She won individual titles on vault, bars and floor at the 2018 Virginia State Championships, while finishing second in the all-around and third on beam. At the same competition in 2017, Sabado finished first in the all-around and on vault, bars and floor, with a second-place finish on beam.

Sabado’s addition makes the Utes’ incoming class only that much stronger, a group Farden previously described as “an extremely strong signing class,” replete with “proven competitors.”

”Each of them are dedicated gymnasts with hardworking mindsets,” he said. “They bring unique skills and outstanding execution, and each of them have dynamic opportunities ahead of them in NCAA competition.”