Bleeding Red: With Regional title in hand, Red Rocks ready for Nationals

They flip and twist, light as a feather
Hitting it one at a time
But can they put it all together
For a meet that is sublime

COMMENTARY – The University of Utah hosted one of the six Regionals in women’s gymnastics last Saturday. The Red Rocks were the top-seeded team in the competition and they did not disappoint.

utesUtah opened on the floor, which is typically the event they end on at home. Nevertheless, the role reversal did not hurt them and, in fact, they took advantage of the opportunity by posting some huge scores on floor that set the tone and carried them through the meet.

“Floor has been one of our strongest events this year,” noted MyKayla Skinner. “So, we were really happy when we found out we were starting on floor because we were just going to hold nothing back and do exactly what we’ve been doing in practice in competition.”

The Red Rocks posted a 49.600 on the floor in the first rotation, which held up as the best team score on floor for the night. Ultimately, Utah would post the highest team score on all four events, which took a lot of the suspense out of the final outcome.

However, there was no room to breathe until the final event was over. The Red Rocks ended on beam, which has proven to be their Achilles heel at times over the course of the season. Kari Lee had an uncharacteristic fall early in the rotation, which really raised the stakes for the remaining routines.

Photo courtesy Utah Athletics

Next up was Missy Reinstadtler, who crushed her routine and tied for first on the event with a career-high 9.925. “I’ve hit every part of that routine,” explained Missy with a huge smile, “just never all at once.”  Even co-head coach Tom Farden was overwhelmed by Missy’s routine. “It was stunning. That was clutch for the team and everybody kind of embraced that moment and then marched on.”

As she has so routinely done over her young career, MyKayla Skinner walked away with the all-around title at the Salt Lake Regional.

Overall, Farden was pleased the team’s effort. “I think they did a good job of controlled aggression.”

There were a number of people pleased with the outcome, including MaKenna Merrell-Giles’ husband, who had the good fortune of being one of the standard bearers. He also got to distribute roses to the winners and had a few opportunities to land some moves of his own with congratulatory smooches for his wife on the podium.

“Especially, after [the Pac-12 Championship], the fire, it’s burning,” MaKenna exclaimed after the meet. “We’re ready to just go out there and kill it like we’ve been wanting to all season.”

There is only a single competition left for the Red Rocks this season. Nationals will be held in St. Louis on Apr. 20-21. Twelve teams made the cut for Nationals; four of them are from the Pac-12. Joining Utah in St. Louis will be UCLA, California, and Washington.

“We are really close to our potential,” Farden said. “I feel like we are in stride, we look good, we’re pretty confident. But we don’t have that confidence every single kid, every single routine, that’s just undeniable. Yet, we’re close. But we’re going to work on that. We’ve got another week and a half, we’re going to roll our sleeves up, and we’re going to go to work.”

Not surprisingly, the field at Nationals will pose the toughest challenge for the Red Rocks all season long. In fact, in its first session at Nationals, Utah will be matched up with top-ranked Oklahoma, which had the highest score in Regionals. In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. “It’s going to be a battle,” Farden said. “We’re looking forward to competing with Oklahoma.”

Missy Reinstadtler’s beam routine at Regionals could prove to be the winning formula for the Red Rocks at Nationals. While there have been flashes of brilliance all season-long, Utah has still not put together the complete set of routines that this talented squad is capable of hitting. They have hit routines, and dominated certain events, just not all at once in the same meet. If they can put it all together at Nationals, like Missy did on beam at Regionals, then they could win it all!

Here’s hoping the Red Rocks kill it like they’re hoping to at Nationals in St. Louis next week!

Bleeding Red is a sports column written by Dwayne Vance. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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