In 1993, the Utah gymnastics team released a marketing campaign that featured the Ute gymnasts greased up and flexing.
It was the first sign of the “Red Rocks.”
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“We did a little bit of a play with our gymnasts and how rock solid they are, but also the red rock of southern Utah,” Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden said. “So it was kind of a combination name that takes in the part of our country that has the beautiful red rocks and the plateaus and then our gymnasts and their rock solid muscles.”
At the time, the women’s athletics teams were all using the moniker of the Lady Utes, and that didn’t sit too well with the gymnastics team or its coaches.
Feeling that Lady Utes was a “little behind the times,” the team set to find a new nickname. The basketball team had its own unique name in the Runnin’ Utes, so the gymnastics team thought they could have its own too.
“Greg and our team felt strongly that we shouldn’t be the Lady Utes, so we made up our own,” Marsden said.
The Red Rocks were born. The name took a while to catch on, starting within the gymnastics team, before appearing in slogans and apparel, and eventually becoming well known around the valley.
“I think in Salt Lake City the people know exactly who the Red Rocks are,” Marsden said. “But if you go nation wide, I don’t think it sticks quite as well.”
The name, and the team for that matter, may be more recognizable on the national scene soon. The New York Times had a reporter and photographer in attendance for Utah’s win over Stanford on Saturday, working on a story about the Red Rocks’ large and loyal fan base. The Times chose a good night to come, as 15,202 fans were in attendance.
In the rankings
Breaking the 198-barrier for the first time Saturday against Stanford wasn’t enough for Utah to climb up the rankings. The Red Rocks remained No. 4 this week with the switch to regional qualifying score (RQS) from total season average. The RQS is obtained by taking the six best scores, with three of those coming on the road, dropping the high score and averaging the remaining five scores. Utah came out with a 197.265. Oklahoma (197.64), LSU (197.335) and Florida (197.270) make up the top 3.
Individually, Georgia Dabritz is ranked No. 1 in the nation on both vault and bars and Tory Wilson is No. 6 in the nation in the all-around.
Marsden reiterated on Monday that though beam remains Utah’s least consistent event, she is not worried about it, though she does want to see the team continue to improve on the apparatus.
“I felt like we aren’t sticking as many dismounts as I would like,” Marsden said. “And I felt like a couple people worked cautiously, not everybody, but I think I still have some beamers that need to approach it more all out.”
Marsden said a cautious approach to the beam is more likely to produce balance checks — something that Utes have seen an abundance of this season. So while the Red Rocks are mostly remaining on the beam, they aren’t having the walk-through performances they’re looking for.
“When they land something it’s not a solid, no question about it, stuck element,” Marsden said. “If you’re really doing beam to win, you’re doing beam to nail a walk through and you’re able put it on a little bit of an automatic, take your head out of it, and I still think we have a couple still thinking about it a lot.”