The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

2018 Outlook – Utah Utes

UTAH ROSTER 2018
Seniors
Tiffani Lewis
VT
UB
FX
  • Reliable, weekly contributor on VT, UB, FX
  • Top-3 team score on UB, FX in 2017
Maddy Stover
BB
  • Leadoff BB for 9.830 in 2017
Juniors
Kari Lee
(redshirt)
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competes AA when health permits
  • Standout on BB (9.890 in 2017)
  • 9.890 on FX in 2015, pre-Achilles
Shannon McNatt
VT
UB
BB
  • Performed 4 VTs, 3 BBs in 2017
  • 10.0-start Omelianchik on VT before injury
  • Could give backup UB in a pinch
Makenna
Merrell-Giles
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Expect AA again in 2018
  • RQSs range from 9.835-9.855
  • 10.0-start Y1.5 on VT
Erika Muhaw
VT
  • Six career VTs for 9.721 avg
Macey Roberts
VT
FX
  • VT, FX specialist
  • Competed weekly in 2017 for 9.845 (FX) and 9.785 (VT)
Sophomores
Missy Reinstadtler
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Made final UB, BB, FX lineups in 2017
  • 9.875 RQS on FX
  • Can VT as needed
Mykayla Skinner
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • #2 nationally in AA in 2017
  • All RQSs of at least 9.9
  • 10.0-start DTY on VT
Kim Tessen
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Missed nearly all of 2017 with injury
  • Can contribute AA when healthy
  • 10.0-start Y1.5 on VT
Freshmen
Alexia Burch
VT
BB
FX
  • Flip USA
  • 10th AA, 2017 JO Nationals, Senior D
Sydney Soloski
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Calgary GC
  • Expected to contribute at least FX in first season
Lauren Wong
UB
BB
  • USA Gymnastics World
  • Joining team in January
  • 10th AA, 2017 Region 1s, Senior C

Recent History
2017 – 5th
2016 – 9th
2015 – 2nd
2014 – 7th
2013 – 9th
2012 – 5th
2011 – 5th
2010 – 6th

Overall, Utah met expectations last season: ranked 5th pretty much the whole year, advanced to Super Six without much drama, then performed OK (though not ideally) in the final for…bum bum bum…5th place. The outlook will be largely similar for 2018.

The losses of Baely Rowe and Sabrina Schwab should ultimately be balanced by the return of Kim Tessen and the introduction of Sydney Soloski, keeping the expected RQS and scoring potential in that low-mid 197 range, though specific events will be a little stronger or weaker than last year depending on the piece.


Vault
Lineup locks
Skinner (9.925), Merrell-Giles (9.855), Lewis (9.850), Tessen (9.783)
Lineup options
Lee (9.840), Roberts (9.785), McNatt, (9.688), Muhaw (9.637), Reinstadtler (9.500), Burch (FR), Soloski (FR)

Utah does appear to have traded up on vault by getting Tessen back, looking at a higher scoring potential than last season with three sure 10.0 starts: Tessen and Merrell-Giles with the 1.5s, Skinner with the DTY. Skinner will continue to lead the scoring with minimum 9.900, and MMG and Tessen will be expected to contribute at least high 9.8s of their own.

Three Yurchenko fulls will complete the lineup, with Lewis‘s the strongest of the bunch. A number of others could realistically join her. Lee is usually good for a viable vault, and Reinstadtler got a top-six spot at the RRP, looking improved over last season. That’s probably your best-case scenario six, with Roberts right there as a usable #7, and then Muhaw and Burch as backup 9.750s as needed.

McNatt is still a question, someone who had an Omelianchik of 9.8ish level last season but who injured herself on that vault at Pac-12s, meaning it may be a little too scary to be worth it this season. It did not make an appearance at the RRP.

If all comes together, this vault lineup can get 49.5+s at home when everyone’s drunk and happy but can also get a real-life 49.400 when it matters. Utah did not vault well at nationals last season for 49.0s, but enough options should exist this season that some of those key-moment 9.7s from 2017 can be shifted to backup roles for 2018.


Bars
Lineup locks
Skinner (9.905), Lewis (9.880), Lee (9.845)
Lineup options
Soloski (FR), Reinstadtler (9.840), Merrell-Giles (9.835), Tessen (9.808), McNatt (-), Wong (FR)

Injuries in 2017 meant that while Utah was able to come up with a competitive bars team, there were six and exactly six options by the end of the year. No wiggle room. The current situation is slightly less urgent, though only slightly, with seven whole options. It’s still a somewhat vulnerable event.

Utah is adding a little more content to Skinner‘s routine this year with a Tkatchev, though they have retained the Shaposh so there will always be .05-.10 of built-in leg-form deductions. That means the lineup can’t be all about Skinner’s score because depending on the judging panel, it can very easily go low-mid 9.8s, as we saw at nationals last year. Significant scores will also come from Lewis, as always, and Lee, who’s…like a bars worker now? Bars used to be her weak event, but no longer.

Introducing themselves to the mix will be Tessen, who would have made the lineup last season if healthy, and Soloski, who has a Ray, Pak, and DLO and looks like she’ll fit right into a six. Reinstadtler probably needs to make it into the lineup as well. Her routine could get a little too 9.800 last season, but she has some of the more refined gymnastics on the team, and when looking for potential 9.9 options, she stands out. Just as likely to make it back into the lineup will be Merrell-Giles and her Deltchev, another who could get a little 9.7y in the handstand department last year but has a usable routine.

Those are pretty much the seven. McNatt is a backup, but definitely a backup. Utah will want to get a bars routine from Wong (the January arrival) at some point, but I’m not sure that it’s a plug-and-play routine. It may need a longer period to get to lineup level.

It shouldn’t be tough for Utah to get a 49.3+ lineup out of this seven, but they may have a tendency to get stuck in the 9.850s as a group. Watch for an unforeseen 9.9 or two, which it will take to contend in April.


Beam
Lineup locks
Skinner (9.900), Lee (9.890), Reinstadtler (9.850), Stover (9.830)
Lineup options
Merrell-Giles (9.840), McNatt (9.838), Tessen (-), Burch (FR), Soloski (FR), Muhaw (-), Wong (FR)

Utah in 2018 will have to make do without the team-high beam score from Baely Rowe but still has a group of nine very reasonable beam routines from which to make a lineup. Lee will be there to perform team-best beam work, and expect Skinner to hit-hit-hit and join her for the higher scores in the lineup.

Stover is an interesting case, someone who has lovely beam work but is also physically hanging on by a thread, now with the added challenge of having to insert more difficulty into her set because of the aerial CV change. She’ll be in the six, but watch that routine.

Reinstadtler should have no trouble returning to the lineup with her lovely work, someone who was also very reliable last season, and it appears that Merrell-Giles has mostly figured out beam at this point in her career. It’s still a little scary, but not as scary as it was when she was new. I have no trouble seeing those five stay intact, but there will be challenges to their reigns if there’s a whiff of falling.

McNatt made the postseason beam lineup last year when Lee couldn’t go (so she’s in with a real shot), but I’d go with Tessen for the sixth spot right now. Her straight legs on acro skills give her the potential for a real 9.9-level routine. A lineup with Tessen, Lee, and Reinstadtler would have a very fancy core. I’m partial to Soloski as well, someone who has the ability but may be in consistency limbo. Beam is probably also Burch‘s best event, so Utah shouldn’t have trouble coming up with a lineup. There are several new, very realistic options to shift around to see who can hit. The hope for the Utes will then be that they can move past “this is the group that can hit” to “this is the group that can score 9.9s,” a luxury that hasn’t always existed the last couple years.


Floor
Lineup locks
Skinner (9.965), Lewis (9.890), Reinstadtler (9.875), Merrell-Giles (9.840), Soloski (FR)
Lineup options
Roberts (9.845), Tessen (9.825), Lee (9.775), Burch (FR)

Floor should get a little heartier in the E-pass department for Utah in 2018 with the introduction of Soloski. Floor is Soloski’s best event, with a comfortable DLO that should figure prominently, potentially as the second-best number in the lineup to Skinner.

Solid supporting scores should come from Merrell-Giles and her piked full-in, the evergreen 9.875 from Lewis, and the refined work from Reinstadtler and Lee. Lee has ditched the 3/1 for the 2.5 since her injury, which I actually prefer because the 3/1 was always landed a touch short of full rotation, though at the same time, it’s difficult to step forward out of 2.5s and make it look controlled. It’s hard out here for a twister.

The spoiler could be Tessen, who ideally would compete on floor with the DLO she had in JO, but she’s not back fully yet and didn’t show real tumbling at the RRP. That routine may take a while longer.

Roberts, who made the lineup last year, is completely acceptable for 9.800-9.850, but you can see her getting squeezed out of the group this year, the same going for Burch, with a very usable double pike set that can compete as needed.

Though the lineup will be very similar to last year, we could see a touch of improvement in scoring if Lee and MMG are both in the six full time, along with the introduction of Soloski’s set. It may not be too much of a change (they’re having to replace Rowe, who started getting 9.9s once she moved to the 5th spot last year—amazing how that works out), but it’s a hearty group.


This team should make Super Six. The lineups full of 9.850s are there, a reasonable number of 10.0-start vaults are there, and if the team continues to be as healthy as it looks right now, there shouldn’t have to be weak links in these lineups.

The difference between last year’s 4-6 zone team and a better result this season will be the number of non-Skinner 9.9s (of which there were just two by RQS last season, both from Rowe). A Skinner show is not enough, so keep an eye on whether a fully healthy Lee and Tessen are getting realistic 9.9s on, say, 2 pieces each during the season. They’re the most likely to do it and would indicate a team with a little more top-level national competitiveness.

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