The 2016 gymnastics season comes to a close this weekend for the Utah gymnastics team as it faces the top programs in the country at NCAA Nationals in Fort Worth, Texas.
It’s been a big year for this Utah team full of young faces. Labelled as a transition year for the program, many felt this team wouldn’t perform as well as some of the Utah teams before. With an 11-2 record and the highest ranking of all Pac-12 schools, the Red Rocks didn’t miss a step following last season’s team — which was on the brink of winning the championship over Florida.
Using motivation from last season’s loss, Breanna Hughes and the rest of the team feel that the team’s chemistry and attitude has been better than ever the past few weeks leading up to the grand event on Friday night.
“It will be exciting to give it one more go before the end of the season,” Hughes said.
Utah was placed into the evening session in a group that features familiar opponents Cal and UCLA, as well as Oklahoma, Alabama and Nebraska. With all schools being ranked in the top-15, including the No. 1 Sooners, the Red Rocks have a daunting task ahead of them if they want to come out on top.
But being handed the underdog title, the team has done well under the pressure and is willing to prove that they are serious contenders and deserve to be there. The Red Rocks also head into the meet in a better position than last year with a healthy squad, sans Kari Lee, and Hughes feels the team has a decent shot to make it to the Super Six.
“We’ve had a lot of bumps here and there throughout the season, but we’ve always come out stronger and found how to be more cohesive as a team,” Hughes said. “It’s just awesome that we can focus on improving our routines, and know that we’re an awesome team to go out there and do really great.”
The team is also pleased about the Pac-12’s representation in Nationals as well. Kailah Delaney is excited about facing some familiar opponents once again.
“It’s great to have two other Pac-12 schools in our session,” Delaney said. “The more Pac-12 schools the better.”
Currently, Utah is on a 21-year trophy-less streak, having won their last championship in 1995. But with this being a new era in Utah gymnastics, with former head coach Greg Marsden retiring at the end of last season, it will be the first time co-head coaches Megan Marsden and Tom Farden will lead the team.
Marsden, who has been part of many Utah championships as a gymnast and an assistant coach, is more than ready to make a new mark in Utah history.
“This is a new era, with [Farden] and I,” Marsden said. “A lot of people talk about this championship being the 41st, but it’s the first for [Farden] and me with the team. We’ll continue to treat it that way. This is our first national championship team together, and we’re looking forward to it. They’re extremely competitive and gritty, and I can’t wait to see what they can do.”
NCAA Nationals for the Red Rocks kicks off Friday night at 6 p.m. MST, with the Super Six taking place Saturday at 7 p.m. MST.