2020 SEASON PREVIEW

2020 Season Preview

"Obviously when you look at this year's team, what pops up immediately is the loss of 14 routines from last year's postseason run and second place finish in the Pac-12," said fifth-year Utah head coach Tom Farden. "With five newcomers and eight underclassmen, there is a lot of uncertainty about consistency. However, this team has exceptional talent and the capability to compete at a high level."

Utah returns just 10-of-24 routines from last year's NCAA Championships, graduating significant contributors from a year ago, while MyKayla Skinner put her senior year on hold for a chance to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic team. Highlighting Utah's returners, two All-Americans in Missy Reinstadtler and Sydney Soloski are set to step up. Reinstadtler will return to her status as an all-arounder after she was limited to competing only on bars last season due to a foot injury. Cristal Isa will look to give Utah another huge lift in the all-around after suffering a season-ending elbow injury last year. In addition to Utah's returners, the Utes tabbed one of the best incoming classes, bringing in five newcomers.

"The unique thing about this year is we are gaining Cristal Isa from her season-ending injury and a full-strength Missy Reinstadtler, which brings us seven more routines between those two athletes," Farden explained. "Missy's presence as an All-American in the all-around, as well as co-captain, will be important for us. There is also quality talent within our five newcomers. Out of the athletes available to compete, we are expecting that every one of them will be making contributions."

Between offseason training and additions to the team, Utah appears to have improved on both beam and bars. All of the potential competitors in the bars lineup have a dynamic routine with an ‘E' dismount and strong release elements. The three freshmen available are all natural beam workers, and transfer student Emilie LeBlanc excelled on beam and bars at Maryland during her two seasons there.

Alexia Burch

"The unique thing about this year is we are gaining Cristal Isa from her season-ending injury and a full-strength Missy Reinstadtler, which brings us seven more routines between those two athletes," Farden explained. "Missy's presence as an All-American in the all-around, as well as co-captain, will be important for us. There is also quality talent within our five newcomers. Out of the athletes available to compete, we are expecting that every one of them will be making contributions."

Between offseason training and additions to the team, Utah appears to have improved on both beam and bars. All of the potential competitors in the bars lineup have a dynamic routine with an ‘E' dismount and strong release elements. The three freshmen available are all natural beam workers, and transfer student Emilie LeBlanc excelled on beam and bars at Maryland during her two seasons there.

Adrienne Randall

Strong on floor, the Utes will have a unique mix of styles, nice dance elements, and crowd-pleasing and engaging routines with new music selections. Lastly, Utah's vault squad has five athletes training 10.0 vaults, which could prove to be essential, while the importance of control and big amplitude for the 9.95 start-value vaults will be as equally important.

Utah opens the season against a rising SEC team in Kentucky, who finished the 2019 season ranked ninth in the nation. The following week, the inaugural Rio Tinto Best of Utah meet will be held at the Maverik Center in West Valley City. The meet featuring the four collegiate programs in the state will be staged on podium, allowing the Utes to compete in a championship setting before the postseason.

The Utes will also face Pac-12 powerhouses UCLA and Oregon State in the middle of the season. The Pac-12 Championships on March 21 will be the second installment of a podium event this season at the Maverik Center.

Missy Reinstadtler

"We are obviously excited about the Pac-12 Championships taking place again in West Valley," said Farden. "Our athletes handled it extremely well and gave the eventual winner UCLA all they could handle by topping the 198 mark. The Rio Tinto Best of Utah meet is a prelude for our young, inexperienced team to compete on podium. Most of our athletes have had some type of podium experience, but for them to be on the elevated surface and feel what it is like to compete on the podium will be invaluable experience for this year's postseason and beyond."

The Red Rocks will then turn their attention to the grueling postseason format that began last year with a three-day regional meet. Advancing through the regional round to the NCAA Championships was difficult before, but it is even more difficult now with just eight teams instead of 12 moving on to nationals. Blue-blood programs Florida and Alabama were left out of the mix at nationals a season ago, showing just how difficult it is to sit in the final eight.

"The postseason format is really exciting," Farden explained. "It is extremely difficult just to make it to the first weekend's final day and beyond the regional round. That is how hard it is now when you eliminate one third of the teams who qualify for nationals. It is an exciting time in NCAA gymnastics and is very viewer friendly, but the bar has been set higher."

Cristal Isa

Here is a closer look at the 2019 Utes:

Ute Seniors

Utah will look for leadership from the two senior captains on this year's squad, Missy Reinstadtler and Kim Tessen. Reinstadtler was limited to competing on bars only last season due to a foot injury and is looking to regain her status as a dynamic all-arounder in her final year. As a junior, Tessen scored a career-high 9.925 on bars at the Pac-12 Championships and was a starter on vault. She also has the potential to add depth to the floor lineup.

Ute Juniors

The team's third captain, Sydney Soloski, is making a case to perform on three events this season after adding vault back into her repertoire. She is already an All-American on floor and her leadership has been an asset to the team during the pre-season. Alexia Burch stepped up during her sophomore season and saw action in every meet on vault and beam, as well as floor on four occasions. She continues to excel on those events and has also improved on bars. Emilie LeBlanc, a transfer from Maryland, will make an impact immediately by strengthening the beam and bars lineups. She holds a career-best 9.90 on each event.

Ute Sophomores

Adrienne Randall had a stellar freshman campaign and will be an instrumental piece of the beam and floor lineups yet again. Randall, who underwent offseason wrist surgery, hit 27-27 routines a year ago and notched season bests of 9.95 on floor and 9.90 on beam. Cristal Isa competed in the first four meets her freshman season before a suffering a season-ending elbow injury. Isa has the potential to compete as an all-arounder this year and will be warmly welcomed back. Hunter Dula has upgraded her dismount and will once again be steady in the bars lineup. Dula went 13-13 as a freshman starter on bars last season, while notching a season-high 9.90 at the Pac-12 Championships. Cammy Hall has had an excellent recovery from her Achilles tear last year. She is a strong vaulter who is in the running for a spot in that lineup.

Ute Freshman

U.S. National Team members Maile O'Keefe and Abby Paulson, as well as Junior Olympic national champions Jillian Hoffman and Jaedyn Rucker, make up one of Utah's best recruiting classes in history. A three-year member of the U.S. National Team and a former P&G national all-around champion, O'Keefe will be a contender in the all-around and demonstrates the poise and movement pattern of a veteran elite athlete. Paulson competed at the P&G Championships and U.S. Classic from 2013-17. Paulson has already impressed the coaches with her consistency and aggressive demeanor on beam. She has also excelled on vault and floor with the potential go all-around. Another possible freshman all-arounder is Hoffman, who was the 2017 J.O. national champion in the all-around, bars and floor. She comes with great skill vocabulary. Rucker suffered a torn ACL before joining the Utes and has undergone two surgeries. The 2018 J.O vault champion's comeback date is undetermined.

Sydney Soloski