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SALT LAKE CITY— The reigning Pac-12 champion Utah gymnastics team hosted its annual Red Rocks preview Friday at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. The night included the debut of the team’s 2015 lineup, an intra-squad competition and autograph signings.
After introductions, the squad split into two teams for a non-scoring meet. All 4,346 fans in attendance got a glimpse of what they can expect from the team this season.
“It was amazing. I felt the vibe of all the fans,” freshman Kari Lee said. “It wasn’t as nerve-wrecking as I thought it would be.”
This year’s team consists of four seniors, four juniors, one sophomore, and four freshmen. The returning group is powerful, especially after healing from last season’s injuries. Senior Corrie Lothrop was limited last year after suffering a torn Achilles. She appears to have returned to her sophomore form.
For the preview, Lothrop competed in the all-around. Junior Kassandra Lopez is also looking great. She competed on the bars and beam after tearing her Achilles which ended her season short in 2014.
It was amazing. I felt the vibe of all the fans. It wasn't as nerve-wrecking as I thought it would be.
“It’s been a long year coming from being injured to now. The whole team has been working hard and it’s motivated me,” said Lopez.
After faltering on the beam during its quest for last season’s championship to Nebraska, the focus was clearly on the Red Rocks beam routines Friday. There has been speculation that the freshmen—Kari Lee, Tiffani Lewis, Samantha Partyka and Maddy Stover—will assist Utah in becoming stronger on the Ute’s weakest event. The prediction proved correct as the freshmen performed very well and enjoyed a loud congratulation from the audience.
“Tonight was a good step forward (on beam) and was really what we’d like this to be. You can do things in practice every day, but it’s different when you get out in an arena in front of people. It was perfect as far as I’m concerned,” said Co-coach Greg Marsden.
The Red Rocks have new floor routines this season. An interesting twist to the routines is the inclusion of the “U” gesture; some more prominent than others. Baely Rowe’s upbeat routine had the crowd cheering. Becky Tutka’s only routine Friday was floor. She performed with a cast on her right arm as she heals from a tendon injury. She is expected to compete in the season’s first meet at BYU Jan. 9.
Utah's first home meet is Jan. 16 at 7 p.m against Southern Utah, Boise State and UC Davis.