Utah Team

LIVE BLOG: Red Rocks Preview

For two years in a row, the Utes have landed themselves in the third spot at the conclusion of nationals. Promisingly, the core of their lineups are returning for another season and we’ll get a chance to see if the Utes live up to what’s been haunting them for two decades. The rocky road to nationals begins here with a first look of the team before it makes its appearance against LSU in January.

Keeping itself as a frontrunner shouldn’t be a problem as new additions will look to fill in the already-stacked roster. Look out for a potential full lineup of 10.0 start values on vault from Abby Brenner, Sage Thompson, Grace McCallum, Makenna Smith, Jaedyn Rucker and Jaylene Gilstrap. For bars, clean lines are well within the Red Rocks vocabulary. Kara Eaker will be one to look out for today as she returns from injury that limited her to beam in 2022. Also, Brenner has been seen showcasing a Jaeger to bail connection, and Amelia Morgan has a new dismount. Known to have stunning presentation and execution, the beam lineup will have experienced returners like Abby Paulson, and Maile O’Keefe. Cristal Isa is in doubt after being seen with a boot and crutches/a scooter on social media recently. Despite a major loss of Sydney Soloski on floor, appearances of Eaker, Smith and Jillian Hoffman could help the Utes improve on one of their weaker events. 

There’s a lot to be excited about for Utah this year. With their depth at an all-time high, lineups could be flourishing with injury returners, freshmen and experienced upperclassmen who will look to knock the Red Rocks out of the third place curse.

Now, for a first look!

Woah, it’s a documentary!! Starting off with a speech from Tom Farden ending with, “Let’s be great.” This film embodies what the Utes are: a legacy program filled with thousands of fans, unique coaching, several backgrounds, and an embarrassment of riches.

Such a nice start off for the preview, very meet-like which I guess that’s the point. 6,000 people in the crowd!!

Tonight each gymnast will be wearing their own custom leotards in a partnership with GK Elite.

Rotation 1: Vault

Lucy Stanhope: Big power on her yurchenko full, can compete a full and a half and looks doable with her quick rotation.

Sage Thompson: Once again, training a one and a half but competes a full. A little bent on the table which causes her to pike down at the end.

Abby Brenner: High yurchenko full, good technique.

Makenna Smith: STUCK! 10.0 start value vault, half onto the table, front pike off and a great landing. Smith has nice distance from the table.

Grace McCallum: Another powerful yurchenko full. Bounds out of her landing.

Jaedyn Rucker: Wow, flares it at the end, quick off the table and beautiful technique throughout.

Jaylene Gilstrap: The toe point is impeccable, love to see it. Clean yurchenko full, small pike down but just a slight hop on the landing.

Jillian Hoffman: So happy to see her back in the lineup. A little low but good speed helps pull the yurchenko full around. Big hop on the landing

Rotation 2: Bars

Oh my, the mascot is up on the beam and he’s wearing a Utah leotard haha.

Amelie Morgan: Small leg separation on her maloney. A little short of the twist on her bhardwaj but covers it well. Pretty short on her blind full and connects it to a new dismount, a stuck toe front half.

Abby Brenner: Great distance on the straddled jaegar, connects it to a bail. Just slightly short of every handstand. Finishes with a stuck double layout. Short and stunning routine.

Makenna Smith: Handstand, toe shoot to maloney plus pak connection. Wow, that pirouette was right on top. a little short of her high bar handstand and a double arabian dismount. Twists a little early off the bar which forces her to be over rotated so she has to take a hop forward.

Sage Thompson: Beautiful pak salto, hit handstand to maloney right into a geinger. Nails the final handstand and double layout dismount to finish, small hop backwards

Maile O’Keefe: Maloney to bail, little short of handstand high bar and of course a high and clean double arabian dismount. She’s patient going into the dismount which gives her a lot of height.

Grace McCallum: Maloney to pak salto to maloney half connection. Clean handstand on the high bar and a perfect full twisting double back, stuck of course. That is a 9.9+ routine. McCallum is consistently clean on this event. She emphasizes her tight form by closing her legs quickly on her handstands and pushing through her shoulders in each skill making her appear taller

Alani Sabado: Over on the blind but a high straddled jaegar. Handstand to toe-shoot and a bit of leg separation on the bail. Dismounts with an almost stuck double layout. Clean and solid routine.

Abby Paulson: Maloney to pak salto and switch kip. Short on her high bar handstand and blind full but pulls around the double tuck dismount. A little shaky. The reason why she doesn’t need to do a pirouette on the low bar after her pak salto is because she fulfills a turning element with a blind full on the high bar. Smart idea to take away the deductions that can come with an inconsistent pirouette

Rotation 3: Beam

Amelie Morgan: Cool mount, a front walkover. Clean BHS, BHS, back layout step out.  Switch leg leap to split jump, a little off but covers well. Split half to straight jump, nice flexibility. Solid full turn. Woah, I don’t even know what that dismount was but it was cool. I think it was a gainer front full. A little shaky throughout but a good start off.

Jaylene Gilstrap: Showing off her beautiful toe point in her mount. Cat leap to front aerial, a little of balance but covers it up. Strong BHS to a straight body layout. Wobble on her full turn. Switch leg leap to a split jump then straight jump. Ends with a BHS to back one and half and comes up a little short so has to take a step back. Love her technique.

Grace McCallum: Enjoying these mounts. Triple wolf turn plus a double wolf turn, dang. BHS to layout step out. Noooo my stream cut out. But, to repeat what MyKayla said, McCallum’s beam is “so graceful.” I know, punny, right?

Abby Paulson: Perfect side aerial layout step out. Switch leg leap to sissone jump. Solid full turn. Beat jump to side aerial back one and a half dismount and, stuck!

Kara Eaker: Switch leap mount to regular leap. Exuding confidence with a solid full turn and side aerial to layout step out series. Her dance always pleases. Really crooked on her cartwheel to gainer back full dismount, a bit scary.

Maile O’Keefe: Pretty dance. I’m here for these aerial to back layout series. Switch leap to regular leap, medium sized wobble. Perfect full turn. Dismounts with a stuck BHS to gainer back full dismount. A little off throughout the routine but still great.

Makenna Smith: Switch leap to split jump. Straight legged cat leap to front aerial right into a split jump. Oh my goshhhh, my stream went out again. I didn’t get to see the last of the routine but I’m sure it had a good finish. She was a little shaky but had solid technique.

Lucy Stanhope: Interesting mount. Good full turn. BHS full to BHS step out, wobbles and first fall for the Utes. Switch leap, switch leap. The iconic teacup dance, I just adore the Red Rocks dance. Back pike dismount off the beam and a step forward. Finished well.

Rotation 4: Floor

Abby Paulson: Front through to a back 2.5 twist, really nice. Front layout to front full. Dancing with her because this music pleases my ears. Switch split half to split jump. Ends with a back one and a half to a front layout. Technically amazing, pretty dance, pretty legs, pretty everything!

Maile O’Keefe: Watered down first pass, soon to be double pike. Hype floor music and dances right into a front layout plus front full for her second pass. Back tuck to her stomach for some cool dance. Round off, back one and a half to front layout to finish.

Makenna Smith: Our star all-arounder for the night! Very interesting floor music, front handspring to a front double full, controlled on her landing. Front handspring to rudi right into a high back layout step out. Tour jete half to a straddle full, doesn’t it get it all the way around. Last pass is a 2.5 twist with another controlled landing. What a great end to the night for Smith.

Grace McCallum: Full-in to start, a little over rotated so has a deep lunge. Unique dance and a funky music to go with it. Waters down her last pass with a back layout.

Kara Eaker: Artistry and elegance is nothing new to Eaker. She waters down her first pass. Round off one and a half, buckles on the landing and isn’t able to complete the front skill, presumably a  front layout. Almost looked like her legs gave out.

Jaedyn Rucker: Super high double arabian, pretty controlled. Switch split half to wolf full to wolf half. I’m about to get up out of my seat and start dancing, the floor music is on another level! Last pass is a front layout to front full.

Jaylene Gilstrap: Picture perfect start and some classical music to change the tone. Front layout to rudi for her first pass. Extends through her dance, emphasizing each line. Truly beautiful. Switch leap to switch half ring. Ends with a front layout front full. In the middle of her routine she does a cartwheel back layout to fulfill a backwards requirement so she’s able to do two passes.

Lucy Stanhope: Last routine of the night! High full-in with an assist from a coach, small hop on the landing. Double tuck for the second pass. Switch leap then a switch side half. Finished with a round off, back one and a half to a front layout. Great end to the night.


A party on the floor means a successful night for the Red Rocks. Although there were no scores today, the Utes are setting themselves up to be one of the top teams in the nation. Can we get a standing ovation for Makenna Smith? She was reliable and clean, certainly embodying the “Utah look” already. And seeing Jillian Hoffman back out in Huntsman was a heartwarming moment for sure.

Small tweaks on bars like handstands and landings will be one of the team’s focus in the weeks leading up to January. For vault, upgrades shouldn’t be a problem as power and rotation spread throughout the lineup. Beam was the Utes shakiest event for the night, wobbles on turns and leap passes as well as a fall posed a threat to the teams striking start. Of course the floor was nothing less than spectacular, artistry and control were at the top of the positives tonight and the music made for an entertaining finish. Goodnight everyone, sleep peacefully knowing the Utes are coming for the title. Red Rocks out.


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