LIVE BLOG: Utah Red Rocks Preview

Utah is one of the teams the College Gym News editors have been most interested in seeing this preseason thanks to some injury questions, the freshmen and what we’re calling a minor vault situation. Leave it to Utah to give fans an official broadcast, complete with Jim Watson commentary, in December. We don’t deserve it.

Of note, Utah put out a preview for the mock meet that mentioned both Missy Reinstadtler and Crystal Isa are expected back from injury and in the all around while freshman Jaedyn Rucker is out indefinitely due to an injury she suffered before arriving in Salt Lake City. Also of note is the fact that this is Tom Farden’s first year all on his own as head coach, so it’ll be interesting to see what decisions over the years he was into and what he’s changed immediately now that he has full control over the program.

The preview also mentioned we’ll be seeing up to eight gymnasts on each event with Utah competing as one team, rather than being split into two and competing in an intrasquad.

I’m expecting to learn a lot from tonight, so let’s get things rolling!

We’re blessed with Jim and Amanda for this little preview. it’s like season is actually here, and I’m tearing up a little.

The video has started but we’re only now getting the national anthem, and the gymnasts haven’t been announced yet. SEC Network it is not.

Petition for all intro videos to be approximately 50% shorter. They’re all so freaking long, and it’s unnecessary. Oklahoma’s last year had me impatiently drumming my fingers too. Also this music that’s playing while the gymnasts are running out reminds me of the soundtrack used for the scene in Billboard Dad where Ashley Olsen’s character has to do a dive from the high platform to win her team the meet after the blond kid they used to hate fakes having a tattoo at age 12.

It’s 8:13 (CT) and this thing still hasn’t started. I realize this is just a preseason thing and I shouldn’t complain because that year UCLA’s thing was broadcast it was even more of a mess, but honestly. I could be watching hockey right now.


Soloski: FTY with a step forward and not a ton of distance. Amanda tells us most are going to be doing FTYs even if they have Y1.5s for season. Maybe we’ll at least find out who’s planning an upgrade.

Leblanc: A Maryland transfer. FTY with a step back. Super high but a little scraggly. Both of these first two vaults were fine but not excellent.

Isa: Coming back fro a season-ending elbow injury, FTY very reminiscent of Kari Lee. A little crooked with chest down and a step but better than the first two.

O’Keefe: FTY with a rebounding step back, pretty clean in the air. It’s obvious they’re not trying too hard on these landings, which is fine for this time of the year. In an ideal world, you don’t want O’Keefe vaulting, but here we are.

Hoffman: FTY, landing on an 8-incher, rebounds on the landing like a timer with a step and a half back. By far the best so far.

Burch: Y1.5, short and falls. She wasn’t really close either. Interesting that she, out of everyone that’s gone, goes for the upgrade.

Tessen: FTY, huge rebound like a timer like Hoffman, pikes it down a little but overall fine. We know she can do a Y1.5.

Reinstadtler: FTY, another rebound back, great form like normal. She’s coming back from an ankle thing.

Also, my feed keeps going in and out, so apologies if I miss anything during this thing.

Hall: FTY, similar to Tessen. Big bounce back and caught by coach.

My guess is the gymnasts that landed on the 8-incher are the ones planning upgrades, but foresee Tessen and Hall the ones most likely to actually compete the Y1.5 come season.


Jim says Tom says Leblanc will be the likely lead-off on bars come season with Tessen and Reinstadtler closing things out (on vault it would be Soloski leading off).

Jim managed to get in a No Grips Dabritz reference, so we can call today a success.

Leblanc: blind to straddled jaeger to immediate bail, double layout with a bit of a crunched landing with a deep squat and step forward, handstands not overly precise but overall a good routine. She’ll be another that has a glow up after leaving Maryland.

Dula: Apparently has a new dismount this year. Blind to straddled jaeger, bail handstand a bit short, great last handstand, double layout with just the tiniest hop in place. A good routine. She was absent from a couple of recent training meet simulations, so we were keeping an eye on her.

Isa: Slight arch on the first handstand, good release, bail is good, another archy handstand, giant full to immediate double layout which seemed a bit low and the bar pinged a little. Not sure that connection is worth it.

Hoffman was supposed to go here but didn’t, skipping to O’Keefe instead.

O’Keefe: great first handstand, toe-on, toe-on shaposh, Pac, half pirouette is right on, good last handstand, giants to double Arabian to a hop. a risky dismount, but she hits it well. That’ll be a good routine for the Utes this season.

FYI there are judges here, so maybe we’ll get some scores in the press release after or something.

Tessen: Great first handstand, piked jaeger is new, good bail handstand, Zamarripa-esque final handstand, full-in with a hop. Think the Utah fans like me comparing her to a former UCLA gymnast? Anyway, great routine overall. The best so far.

Reinstadtler: Toe-on blind to straddled jaeger, leg sep on her bail handstand but hits vertical, now my stream is frozen in an awkward position of her mid-squat on so point to all you squat on haters, you win this round. Obviously I missed the end, but she’s smiling so I’m assuming it was fine.

Burch: Adding bars this year, straddled jaeger, short next handstand, bail is OK, a little short again on the final handstand, does two giants into a loose double back, which looks like a mistake. Amanda agrees. I’m assuming it was supposed to be a full-in.

Hoffman: My guess is they moved her to the end to simulate the real top six to start the rotation. straddled Tkatchev, bail handstand, she has a bit of a loose back in her skills, double layout with a big step back. An OK routine, but she needs to tighten up her positions a little.


Leblanc: Switch leap to split quarter to open is hit, bhs loso with a bit of a balance check at the end, front aerial to split jump, this angle is terrible for splits, full turn fine, ro 1.5 with a bigish step and a bit to the side. A fine routine. Probably 9.7-y, or let’s be real, 9.8-y at home during season.

Burch: full turn directly into choreo, bhs loso some flexed feet but the judges don’t take off for that, split jump to double stag with her head back, cat leap to front aerial is solid, gainer layout full stuck. Not bad. So far, this has been her best event of the three.

Paulson: Our frist look at the former TCT-er. A nice chest stand mount, side aerial loso series is pretty good, some form, leap is also fine, the usual TCT feet with her, props for using Drops of Jupiter for her beam music though, ends with a hitch kick side aerial back full to end with a small hop.

Isa: Candlestick mount, front toss to beat jump is good, bhs loso loso nailed, full turn with a small balance check, switch leap to straddle quarter a bit off and formy but she saves it without too much trouble, bhs (?) into gainer full. Oh they’re replaying the mount a ton. I have a feeling that’s going to become the thing I get tired of this year.

O’Keefe: Side aerial loso is solid, switch to split jump with a small balance check, standalone front aerial, full turn maybe with a hunt of a check, side aerial to back full stuck. There was a lot of pausing and preparing for skills in that routine. We know the Utah judges won’t take rhythm deductions, but I want her to improve on it anyway.

Randall: full turn is nice, yes really, bhs loso also incredibly solid, split jump to sheep with legs apart but not something the judges can likely see as much from their angle, full-twisting swing down is a bit off and she has to correct herself on the beam to not fall, ends with a ro 1.5 with a step forward. A pretty good routine for her and the team. She’s coming into her own on the event.

Soloski: hitch kick to front aerial, handstand into bhs loso, no issues, if you read my LSU live blog you know I’m already tired of the increase in front aerials, jump series is fine, leg up full turn is pretty wild in the leg department, that sucker did not stay at horizontal the whole time and instead waved up and down, finishes with a stuck front full where she just pulls her heels together.

Tessen: Bhs loso is good, another freaking standalone front aerial, can I start pretending they don’t exist? Beat jump to split three-quarter, full turn fine, dismounts a ro double full with a medium step back.

So the big takeaway is no one fell, which is great news for Utah. They’ll have a lot to choose from come season. There are some clear favorites for that lineup, but everyone at least has a chance. Also note we didn’t see Reinstadtler. We know she’s had some mental blocks on the event in the past, but they could have also just been resting and not coming back to the all around right away.


This will be our first look at Courtney “Should Have a Paid Position” McCool Griffeth’s floor choreography, who was called by the Utah student newspaper “Garrett Griffeth’s wife” rather than Olympian or NCAA champion or owner of an eponymous skill, so that’s something that happened and I’m clearly not over it.

Megan Marsden’s also here, taking the opposite approach as Greg when it comes to watching meets after retiring.

Burch: Double tuck with a small amount of over rotation to open, leaps are a bit short, music is apparently from the new Aladdin movie, choreo is fine so far, but I’m not about to go write home to my friends about it. ro 1.5 to front layout to end. Did I miss the second pass? Ahh yes I did, double pike. Sorry folks.

Paulson: Double pike to open, some leg separation just like good old Maggie Nichols, front layout to front full a little under rotated, switch to switch full, ro 1.5 to front layout is off and underrotated but she pulls it out. Definitely more of a 9.7 routine, but she has time to improve on it.

Can we talk about McCool’s hair? it’s fab.

Isa: Double duck to start is nice, high and clean. Using music you’ve heard lots of before and were tired of before Isa even thought of using it, 1.5 to front layout better than her previous teammates, leap series is good and fully rotated, last pass is a double pike, slightly under rotated and a step forward but not bad. To be honest, I’m impressed with Utah’s endurance so far. Sure, they’re watering down from potential Es, but they’re also doing three real passes with no spots in all the routines so far.

Tessen: Also using music you’ve heard 10,000 times before. Apparently it’s her same as last year too, but I don’t really think it fits her “personality” very well. Anyway, opens with a front double full onto a mat, a little stumbley on the landing, leap series is good. Now we’re talking about her hair cut, which I’m honestly just glad grew out from what it was during the photo shoot. It looks good now. Ends with a 1.5 to front layout as well. I’m hoping that’s not everyone’s last pass because it’s super boring.

Oh Jim, honey… “We’ve seen dances like [Tessen’s] go viral.” No, Jim. This is not like Ohashi’s routine.

Hoffman: Double layout is huge, high and has good form and a good landing, into it, double tuck is also good, this routine is going much better than her bars routine, I also think I like this music best so far. Last pass is a 1.5 to front layout which I am DONE with tonight. It’s good and high if not a little formy, but the height saved her from having any landing issues.

Soloski: Double layout is nice and unassisted, her usual, switch half to split full maybe not rotated perfectly but good in the air, front layout to front full is good, another 1.5 to front layout I may scream. I know it’s probably just for today, but it also feels like they’re toying with me at this point. Music was the same as Hundley used in 2018, which I’m OK with because I like it and it’s great for engaging the crowd.

Randall: Giant double tuck to open with a spot, she has a piked full-in to sub in come season, switch side to Popa good in the air, middle pass good, ends with a back layout timer, which Amanda says will be another double salto. She had offseason wrist surgery.

O’Keefe: I already like her routine, opens with a double pike, under rotates a bit and steps forward, thank you Amanda for calling it a tour jete full, some cool floor choreo, oo a second leap pass that ends down on the floor me likey, OK fave routine so far, ends with a—I’ll let you guess. She plans to upgrade it to a 1.5 to front full.

That’s it! Reinstadtler had the potential to go but they decided not to put her up because Tom’s biggest goal was for everyone to finish without getting hurt, and we know Missy can be a bit fragile. Thay’ll need her this season.

Overall, Utah looks ready for season. Vault was pretty hard to judge, but it’s impressive that the team has eight solid options on each event, not something a lot of top teams can say.

Now we’re getting an interview with Amanda, Missy and Maile. Reinstadtler says all around is the goal, but they aren’t rushing anything. For being a senior, she’s not a great interview, but I’ll chock it up to her being nervous and not normally having done a ton of interviews with Skinner and MMG having been around. O’Keefe being interviewed now, but all we’re getting are cliche answers.

Anyway, Utah’s looking good, and I think you can guess a lot about lineups and the team from having watched this, with the exception of maybe vault, which we were honestly a little worried about coming into this, so those questions weren’t exactly answered.

That’ll do it for me tonight! Thanks for reading along—season’s almost here! Come back tomorrow for our live blog queen Rebecca taking on UCLA’s Meet the Bruins, then Mary Emma live blogging Pitt’s intrasquad Sunday and new editor Claire bringing you coverage from Athens for Georgia’s First Look on Tuesday.

Live blog by Elizabeth Grimsley

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