2018 Freshmen – Utah

Utah was planning to bring in a comparatively small class of two this year—along with Central Michigan, the only teams in the top 30 with freshman classes of two or fewer gymnasts—though the late addition of Lauren Wong, who starts in January, brings the Utes up to three.

The newbies will be expected to fill the void left by Rowe and Schwab on a team that theoretically hasn’t lost enough from last season to be in desperate need of routines but could use bolstering on several events, especially with a couple gymnasts still in “return from injury” mode.

UTAH 2018 – Returning Routines
VAULT
Skinner – 9.925
Merrell-Giles – 9.855
Lewis – 9.850
Lee – 9.840
Roberts – 9.785
Tessen – 9.783
Muhaw – 9.705
McNatt – 9.688
Reinstadtler – 9.500
BARS
Skinner – 9.905
Lewis – 9.880
Lee – 9.845
Reinstadtler – 9.840
Merrell-Giles – 9.835
Tessen – 9.808
BEAM
Skinner – 9.900
Lee – 9.890
Reinstadtler – 9.850
Merrell-Giles – 9.840
McNatt – 9.838
Stover – 9.830
FLOOR
Skinner – 9.965
Lewis – 9.890
Reinstadtler – 9.875
Roberts – 9.845
Merrell-Giles – 9.840
Tessen – 9.825
Lee – 9.775
Sydney Soloski

A Canadian elite, Soloski finished 4th at Elite Canada and 3rd at Gymnix in 2015, then received the Ljubljana World Cup assignment in 2016, where she took silver on floor and bronze on beam.

Beam and floor have typically been Soloski’s most competitive events, so we’ll start there.

That DLO should come in handy. It’s rather arched but also quite high in that Fragapane-spark-plug style that her floor work evokes. This complement of tumbling passes would make Soloski a compelling nominee for a place of honor in the lineup near Skinner.

As for the other pieces, Utah has a bit more need for numbers on bars and beam this season than on vault and floor, and I can certainly see Soloski coming into that beam lineup. She looks crisp and extended on acrobatic elements like the front aerial and the layout stepout series.

On bars, Soloski did not score as well as an elite, but with the Ray, a high and clean Pak, and a possible DLO dismount, she needs to become an option there. One of the issues in converting her routine to NCAA may be those straight-body cast handstands, which some coaches still teach even though they look good on only about 5% of gymnasts, the most refined of the refined, and are just deduction traps on everyone else. (“Why are you sabotaging your own gymnast?” he asks futilely.) If Soloski straddled up to handstand, I bet this routine would look a lot more score-realistic.

Soloski also has a perfectly acceptable Yurchenko full—a very 5.0/8.500 full under the last elite code—that could be used, but since Utah basically has an entire team of usable Yurchenko fulls, it’s not why she’s here.

Alexia Burch

Burch finished 10th AA at JO nationals this year with scores of at least 9.575 on three events, following up her 7th-place finish from 2016. Strength-wise, Burch profiles somewhat similarly to Soloski in that her best placements have tended to come on beam and floor, finishing in the top 6 on both events at JO nationals each of the last two years.

On beam, Burch shows competitive amplitude on acrobatic skills and remains fairly well extended throughout. With the right selection of leaps, this would a very believable set.

On floor, Burch does not boast the big opening pass that Soloski does, which means she may have to fight it out with the likes of Macey Roberts to see who has the cleanest and most comfortably landed double pike-style set to fill out the remaining spot or two in the lineup. I do like that rudi to layout stepout second pass.

Burch shows respectable power on a Yurchenko full, so if I were to pick which freshman is more likely to make the vault lineup, I’d go with Burch. Utah should have a solid collection of 10.0 starts on vault in 2018 but doesn’t bring in any new ones and will therefore need some of these fulls as well.

Bars was the weak score for Burch in JO. She has the skill set, with a Jaeger, a solid bail, and a full-in dismount, though it’s all probably just a little too flat in the amplitude department to be a first-choice option.

Lauren Wong

Lauren Wong will officially join Utah’s team in January, at which point she’ll primarily be expected to fulfill a “really adds to our depth” role, depending on how many healthy gymnasts Utah has to choose from. I did note above that Utah has more need for numbers on bars and beam, and that’s what Wong will bring.

Wong’s best event is bars, where she shows line and toe point potential, along with a full-twisting double tuck dismount. They will need to Farden some of those handstands to make this into an lineup-ready routine, but the raw materials are there. The same could go for beam, where Wong has leap ability and some lovely style that shouldn’t go unseen if she can develop the consistency necessary for NCAA beaming.

On this team, floor and vault (9.9 start) are less likely. Wong does show worthwhile basics and form on floor (note how pretty that double pike looks until she lands short) but may lack the power to muscle her way into a Utah lineup.

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