2017 Freshman Preview: Utah

You didn’t expect me to resist the opportunity to use “stab a boob, take a selfie” one more time did you?

Returning Routines – Utah
Lewis – 9.845
Rowe – 9.835
Muhaw – 9.800
Lee – 9.750
Merrell – 9.750
Rowe – 9.905
Schwab – 9.875
Lewis – 9.845
Lee – 9.792
Stover – 9.900
Rowe – 9.880
Lee – 9.825
Merrell – 9.592
Schwab – 9.910
Lewis – 9.900
Merrell – 9.850
Rowe – 9.848
Stover – 9.575
Lee – 9.392

Utah’s granary of routines has been mightily depleted after last season’s graduations and the retirement of Samantha Partyka, but there’s also good news for the Utes: all three of this year’s freshmen are legitimate all-arounders from whom we should expect a significant and plentiful harvest. I don’t have trouble coming up with 6+ viable routines on each event.

The most prominent member of Utah’s accomplished freshman trio is, of course, Photoshop Olympian, Twitter cautionary tale, and interpretive vault pioneer, MyKayla Skinner.

Much has been made of the idea that Skinner won’t be as successful in NCAA because of the built-in form deductions in her gymnastics, but I’m not so sure about that. We’ve seen plenty of people thrive in NCAA with less-than-Pavlovian splits, and frankly her form isn’t all that different from many of the JO gymnasts I’ve been watching these last few weeks. Plus, “tweets dumb things” isn’t a deduction in the code of points, so that doesn’t really have anything to do with what scores she should get.

The composition in NCAA will allow Skinner to get rid of her worst skills, with the added bonus of being able to rely on the old “blind them with difficulty” strategy. Of course, all routines starting from 10.0 are supposed to be evaluated equally…and once you stop laughing we can continue with the rest of the preview.

Blinded By Difficulty absolutely needs to be the approach for Skinner. Her success has always been based on her ability to chuck extremely difficult skills, and downgrading significantly—the way many elites do in NCAA—would only expose problems rather than get her higher scores. As we learned from that “Bali, Mali, Chile, Malawi…it’s a simple do the dance (?)” commercial, Skinner’s DTY is cleaner than her Yurchenko timer. That’s insane, but it’s also true. She needs to retain the big skills, and if she does, I see no reason why she won’t get some of the highest scores in the country, particularly on vault and floor.

So I say vault that DTY.

I’d opt for the DTY over the Yurchenko 1/2-on vaults, purely so that we avoid any and all “DID SHE USE BOTH HANDS?” issues and never have to talk about Skinner being the first gymnast to do an Ono on the vaulting table ever again. It would just be a public service. But we’ll see.

On floor, the layout double double needs to go, but the tucked double double remains worthwhile. It’s Skinner’s strongest tumbling element and would make her floor a standout piece since no one else does that skill in NCAA, also giving Utah the irresistible “most difficult skill being done in college gymnastics” talking point that I’m sure no one would ever mention.

Beam is a little trickier because the consistency deity will govern all, but ideally Skinner would be able to retain the back full—or just the front tuck mount and double tuck dismount with a bare minimum of dance elements in between, a la Kytra Hunter’s early Florida routines. Hunter’s basic routine composition should be a role model for Utah because Hunter had the same problem with dance elements in elite, which we kind of forgot about once she went Gator.

Hmm. How do we solve a problem like bars? Skinner has improved there, but that’s the one event where her most difficult skills don’t really provide an advantage because of the aggressive straddling. It’s never going to be a pristine routine, but it could be one of those Utah amnesia routines where she sticks the tuck full at the end, and Tom Farden screams like he just won the Everything Championships, and everyone’s throwing 10s at each other, and we’re just like, “Wait..what? Where am I? Are you my mother?”

Not to be overshadowed, Missy Reinstadtler. You should get excited about this one. She may end up being the jewel in this Utah freshman class. Reinstadtler was a senior elite for a hot second but has spent most of her career being one of the top L10s in the country, which is an ideal track for a college gymnast. You have the elite skill set and attention to minute details that’s required of elites, but without sticking around for years to endure all the bad parts.

That double Arabian and those complete split skills should be the making of a big floor routine, abilities that also translate very well to beam. Beam has the problem of being, you know, beam, but I sure do like those dance elements.

Interestingly, Reinstadtler bumped up to the 1.5 on vault this year after competing a full during her time as an elite, which is the opposite of how it usually goes. But that’s the world we live in now that the full doesn’t start from a 10 in NCAA. Working to get a 1.5 specifically for college is a thing now. The 1.5s I’ve seen from Reinstadtler tend to exhibit more than 0.05 worth of wonkiness in landings, so we’ll see if that vault ends up being worth it. Still, she’s presenting another option for a team that was too short on 10.0 SV vaults last season. We learned last year that one Y1.5 doesn’t cut it, and that’s going to be even more true this year.

Oh, Reinstadtler is also the JO national champion on bars. That too. It’s a very efficient routine (meaning it’s exactly two skills long), and has the added bonus of being almost exactly identical to that of her teammate, Kim Tessen.

The two got identical scores for these identical routines at JO Nationals and should bring their sheer identicalness right into high-leverage lineup spots in 2017. Utah has already provided a helpful preview of most of the lineup for us in training videos. Here they are being all clearly-the-lineup.


I also enjoy Tessen’s extension on beam, particularly through the side aerial and even the switch 1/2 in the below routine. When you put her together with Reinstadtler, Stover, and Lee, Utah should have some serious fancy going on in that beam lineup this year.

Historically, though, Tessen’s best scores have come on vault because she too has a 1.5. Utah isn’t retaining anyone from last season who is more than mid-lineup level on vault, so the possibility of three 10.0 starts from the three freshmen is basically blood pressure medication.

Not to be outdone in the difficulty department by her classmates, Tessen also shows a DLO on floor. It’s not quite as comfortable as the E passes are for Reinstadtler or Skinner, but this is what I was talking about with my contention that even though this class of three is smaller than the freshman classes at most of the other top schools, it’s not ridiculous to think there are 12 legitimate lineup routines in this group.

5 thoughts on “2017 Freshman Preview: Utah”

    1. sorta on the mean side – the kid is really great and not the usual sugar pie almost sickeningly sweet suck up – try hoping for the best for her for a change – she might surprise you

      1. a continuation – prefer her to the false “aint I cute ” Laurie on DWTS. Real emotion is a fresh change.

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