2019 Preview – Utah Utes

UTAH
Seniors
Kari Lee
(redshirt)
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed AA in 9 of 14 meets in 2018
  • RQS of 9.875 BB, 9.875 FX, 9.865 FX, 9.850 UB
  • Top-3 returning score on BB
Shannon McNatt
BB
  • Provided backup BB in 2018
  • Competed 10.0-start Omelianchik in 2017 before injury
Makenna
Merrell-Giles
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed AA in every meet in 2018
  • Team’s #2 returning score on all 4 events
  • RQS of 9.940 FX, 9.925 VT, 9.890 BB, 9.870 UB
Macey Roberts
VT
FX
  • Performed 6 FXs in 2018, hit 5 of 6, and 1 VT
  • Competed weekly in 2017 for 9.845 (FX) and 9.785 (VT)
Juniors
Missy Reinstadtler
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed AA in 13 of 14 meets in 2018
  • Team’s #3 returning RQS on UB, FX
  • RQS of 9.895 FX, 9.865 UB, 9.840 VT, 9.835 BB
Mykayla Skinner
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • #2 nationally in AA in 2018
  • Ranked #3 on FX, #5 on VT
  • RQS of 9.960 FX, 9.930 VT, 9.925 UB, 9.915 BB
Kim Tessen
VT
UB
  • Competed weekly VT, UB in 2018
  • 10.0-start Y1.5 on VT
  • RQS of 9.895 VT, 9.860 UB
Sophomores
Alexia Burch
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed 7 BBs in 2018 for 9.800 RQS
  • Also showed 1 FX (9.850) and 1 VT (9.775)
Sydney Soloski
BB
FX
  • Made final 2018 lineups on FX, BB
  • RQS of 9.890 on FX, avg of 9.775 on BB
Lauren Wong
UB
  • Competed 1 UB in 2018 for 9.825
Freshmen
Hunter Dula
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • All-American
  • 9th AA, 4th UB – 2018 JO Nationals
Cammy Hall
 
  • Torn Achilles in early December
  • Capital
  • 11th VT, 2018 JO Nationals
Cristal Isa
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • GymCats
  • 4th AA, 1st UB – 2018 JO Nationals
Adrienne Randall
UB
BB
FX
  • SCEGA
  • 4th AA, 2nd BB – 2018 JO Nationals

FINAL SEASON RANKINGS
2018 – 5th
2017 – 5th
2016 – 9th
2015 – 2nd
2014 – 7th
2013 – 9th
2012 – 5th
2011 – 5th
2010 – 6th
2009 – 3rd

THE STORY
Utah is Utah. Always toward the top. Always a contender. An evergreen selection to make Super Six. The constant in college gymnastics. Everything about 2019 points to Utah occupying the same position in the college gymnastics pantheon that is has for the last 10 years or so.

But this year, Utah is not immune from the moment of truth imposed by the new postseason format. Not so much in terms of advancing to nationals as one of the 8 (the team that has never missed nationals is favored to keep that streak alive in 2019), but shrinking the final-day field from 6 teams to 4 teams has major ramifications for a team that finished 5th each of the last two seasons. Utah will know it must improve (even if just by a little) this season to attain that eternal goal of being in it with a shot on the last day of the season.

At the very least, expect Utah to maintain its scoring level from 2018. This team hasn’t lost enough to be truly worried about a dip in performance. These lineups are almost entirely intact, with an opportunity for some upgrades depending on how the freshmen come through. In several cases, Utah is losing one routine but gaining three legitimate possibilities, so there’s every reason to expect increased competition for spots that can help Utah improve the standard by inches and bits here and there on most events, especially in those early halves of lineups.


VAULT 2019
Lineup locks: MyKayla Skinner, Makenna Merrell-Giles, Kim Tessen
Lineup options: Missy Reinstadtler, Kari Lee, Cristal Isa, Macey Roberts, Alexia Burch, Hunter Dula

Vault delivered Utah’s best ranking in 2018, the Utes finishing up as the #3 team in the country, an impressive feat considering Utah didn’t have the absolute most 10.0 starts to work with.

Skinner’s DTY is of course the star of the lineup and is pretty much a given for 9.900, with a chance for more depending on landing control. Merrell-Giles will return with a Y1.5 for 9.9s of her own, and expect Tessen to bring back her 1.5 as well. Tessen’s 1.5 landing was a little less reliable than MMG’s last season but definitely still worth it. With those three big vaults returning, Utah should be able to match last season’s vaulting.

The expectation of start-value upgrades did take a hit this week with the Achilles injury to Cammy Hall, someone who would have been counted on to deliver a Y1.5. Utah is still hoping to get an upgraded 1.5 out of Missy Reinstadtler, but she didn’t perform vault or floor at the Red Rocks Preview, so that’s still in “it’s not real until we see it in a meet” territory.

In terms of Yfulls to fill out the lineup, as always there will be Kari Lee’s lovely open on her full, and beyond that it’s sort of a toss-up for the remaining vault(s) with people like Alexia Burch, Cristal Isa, and Macey Roberts. Sort of depends on the landing and the day.


BARS 2019
Lineup locks: MyKayla Skinner, Makenna Merrell-Giles, Missy Reinstadtler
Lineup options: Cristal Isa, Kari Lee, Hunter Dula, Kim Tessen, Lauren Wong, Adrienne Randall, Alexia Burch

For the most part, the bars lineup should be familiar. Still, with Isa and Dula, Utah does introduce two new, very realistic routines while having to replace only one. I like Isa (which is pronounced like Eee-sa, as we now learned) as a newcomer in the lineup with her Ray and crisp bail, just as long as those loose-back casts don’t prove a deduction trap—though mad respect for not straddling her cast handstands.

Dula did fall on a Jaeger in the RRP but has a ton of potential with the toe point and whatnot. As I like to say, the tools are there for more than just a regular 9.825, so the ideal, “everything has come to fruition” bars six probably has Dula in it—which could be the difference between improving and just holding steady.

As for the leaders of the lineup, Skinner. Skinner has new bars composition this season (opening with a Ray instead of a Shaposh), and I approve. Getting rid of the of the Shaposh has removed a potential leg-separation deduction, and while there’s definitely more risk in the routine when going for a Ray, if you can’t trust Skinner to hit, who can you trust to hit?

After that, you’ve got Merrell-Giles, Reinstadtler, Tessen, and Lee. I expect these 7 names I’ve thrown out to compete for the 6 spots, but who will it be? MMG will make it with Skinner, but I think you can make pretty good arguments for any of the other permutations.


BEAM 2019
Lineup locks: MyKayla Skinner, Makenna Merrell-Giles, Kari Lee, Missy Reinstadtler
Lineup options: Adrienne Randall, Cristal Isa, Hunter Dula, Sydney Soloski, Alexia Burch

Beam consistency was a hallmark of Utah’s 2018 season, in which the team did not count a fall the entire way through. Beam even proved to be Utah’s highest-scoring event in an otherwise flat Super Six performance, so I expect the 2019 lineup to be, in large part, a “just don’t mess with it” kind of project.  At least at the top.

Skinner and Merrell-Giles bring the biggest scores, Reinstadtler and Lee bring the gymnerd extension, and all four need to be back for everyone’s sake. That part of lineup seems pretty straightforward to me. The newcomer to this game should be Adrienne Randall, who excelled on beam in JO and has the execution of acro elements to score well. The Rulfova is going to be a thing.

Options abound, however. Soloski made the final lineup last year and is a likely possibility this year, Burch was the backup last season and will be an option again, and it looks like they’ve worked out Shannon McNatt’s composition so that she can be a candidate after getting start-valued out of the lineup at the beginning of 2018.

Before the RRP, Isa probably would have been in my six, but since we didn’t see a beam routine from her or from Dula, I’ll put a hold on expectations for now.


FLOOR 2019
Lineup locks: Makayla Skinner, Makenna Merrell-Giles, Sydney Soloski, Missy Reinstadtler
Lineup options: Adrienne Randall, Kari Lee, Macey Roberts, Cristal Isa, Alexia Burch, Hunter Dula

Floor was nearly always Utah’s highest score in 2018, and that level should continue in 2019. I would be surprised if floor doesn’t end up Utah’s best event. Like most of the other pieces, the core of the lineup will remain the same, with Skinner and Merrell-Giles leading the way once again, Soloski and her DLO looking like a lock again, and Missy Reinstadtler being elegantly precise for 9.9s of her own.

There’s a lot of E-pass potential in this freshmen class as well, but interestingly Randall’s full-in was the only one to make it into a competition routine in the RRP. Of those freshmen, we were all ready to be into Isa and Dula, but Randall was the one who really stood out as looking like a multiple-lineup member. Utah will be hoping for at least one, if not two, of those freshmen to get some new power and difficulty into the lineup. Though with a 49.520 RQS from last season, there’s not a ton of room left to grow. Utah would be perfectly fine with just maintaining those scores.

Among the D-pass routine options, Macey Roberts looked the farthest along in her landings at the RRP, so if I were picking a lineup right now for a meet tomorrow, she would be in it. But there’s still a month left for the others to get into the mix, including Isa and Dula, perennial floor-lineup member Kari Lee, and Alexia Burch, who is looking very believable for the lineup so far.

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2 thoughts on “2019 Preview – Utah Utes”

  1. Reminder to fantasy draft fans: Utah has a history of using multiple AAers and returns FOUR who were pretty consistent in the AA in 2018 (Skinner, MMG, Lee, Missy).

    I also find the Utes to be a pretty loyal program who reward their seniors (MMG, Lee) if they are maintaining consistency in the line-up. I would expect Alexis B. to once again be a good back-up beam routine this year and then perhaps make the lineups as a junior or senior.

    FYI – Missy is apparently dealing with an ankle sprain, so she may not be in the vault/floor lineups at the start of the season.

    Like

  2. Spencer – I’m continually impressed by your intimate knowledge of each team. You rival any football or basketball fan about your up-to-date knowledge of gymnasts, injuries, and likely lineup predictions. I’m a Utah fan and I agree 100% with everything posted above. Nicely written.

    Like

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