After taking a win last week in their first quad meet of the season, the Red Rocks moved up in the national rankings to No. 4 after scoring 197.625 points during the meet — a season high.
So far, the Red Rocks are ranked No. 4 on vault, No. 4 on floor, No. 5 on beam and No. 6 on bars. In all-around, freshman MyKayla Skinner is ranked No. 2 with teammate senior Baely Rowe following closely behind at No. 3.
Skinner said she felt her team is doing well this early in the season. After watching the team’s progress last year, Skinner thinks that the Red Rocks have stepped it up, and they are prepared and ready to attack. Sophomore MaKenna Merrell, along with Skinner, is excited for the rest of the season and also thinks her team is doing really well.
“I feel like our team chemistry is super good and just the way we have been practicing and the way we have been competing is very similar to each other, which is good, because you always want to compete the way you practice,” Merrell said.
Co-head coach Megan Marsden said that she feels confident about the young team, but she added that her and co-head coach Tom Farden have helped this young team feel more like veterans. Commenting on freshmen Kim Tessen and Missy Reinstadtler, Marsden said with the two injuries last week — one minor and one major — Tessen and Reinstadtler ended up in more events than usual, but her and Farden were proud about how they handled it.
Skinner on the rise
While the Red Rocks moved up in the national rankings, Skinner has been moving up as well. In last week’s meet, Skinner won all-around for the third time this season, scoring 39.775 points. Not only did she score a season high — also scoring a season best on floor with 9.975 — Skinner tied for fifth best in Utah history and she tied for best Ute freshman with former Ute Ashley Postell.
According to Skinner, her goal is to go out in the arena and do what she needs to do for the team. Whatever comes after is rewarding for her.
“I like going out there and just doing my thing and I hope I can keep doing that — getting better and getting high scores and hopefully getting a 10 finally,” Skinner said. “I just need to keep working on execution and see how it goes in the gym, but hopefully I can reach my goals by the end.”
While Marsden is excited about Skinner getting a lot of different accolades from the Pac-12 and winning all-arounds, she is not worried about how Skinner will stand up individually as the season goes on.
“We are taking it one week at a time, so I haven’t really thought a lot about postseason and her individually,” Marsden said. “We have a lot of team goals going on, and obviously she is a big part of that, but we can’t do anything without others. I think our focus right now is more on team.”
Last week during Tuesday’s practice, sophomore Sabrina Schwab suffered a season-ending knee injury, tearing her ACL. Only getting the chance to compete in the first two meets of the season before going down, Schwab placed second in all-around against BYU, scoring a career-high of 39.3. In 2016, Schwab was also four-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, setting a Utah record, winning three event titles last year. She also hit all 34 of her routines without falling.
Marsden said her injury was devastating to everyone on the team, because a major injury in gymnastics is frustrating.
“Most of these girls are willing to work with a lot of different aches and pains, and, you’ll see them out there and training,” Marsden said. “We try to manage that to keep their pain manageable, but when someone goes down with something serious, like an achilles tendon tear or an ACL tear, doctors determine what’s next, and it’s time off.”
Fortunately, Marsden added that Schwab is tasks oriented, a driven gymnast, and she is already trying to find out what’s next, and she’s getting involved in rehab. In the next two or three weeks, Schwab will undergo surgery — they are waiting for the swelling to go down — but according to Marsden, Schwab knows how to make the best out of any situation.
“I am so lucky to work with athletes that are like that,” Marsden said. “These girls are very driven in all aspects of their lives. So it was tough for Sabrina for about 24 hours, and then she seems to be on to the next step. Sabrina is something special out in the arena and now we have to wait a year to see that again.”