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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah gymnastics team narrowly lost out to Florida in last season's NCAA national championship. But the NCAA runner-up Red Rocks are set up for another successful season after being picked fourth in the preseason coaches poll, which was released Tuesday.
The Utes received 14 first-place votes, which was the third most, and was three points away from claiming the No. 3 spot in the preseason poll. Ahead of Utah is Oklahoma, defending national champ Florida and Alabama.
"We feel good about our preseason national ranking," co-head coach Tom Farden said in a prepared statement. "We lost possibly the best senior class in the nation, so this ranking shows that the coaches respect not only our returners, but also our freshman class of recruits."
The Utes will face eight teams ranked in the preseason Top 25, including No. 6 UCLA, No. 7 Michigan, No. 8 Stanford, No. 9 Georgia, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 14 California, No. 18 Arizona and No. 24 Southern Utah.
Utah held its Red Rock Preview on Friday before a record crowd of 5,200 people in the first year without longtime coach Greg Marsden.
This year's roster is highlighted by All-Americans Kari Lee, Kailah Delaney, Breanna Hughes, Kassandra Lopez and Samantha Partyka. MaKenna Merrell from Pleasant Grove, Utah, and Erika Muhaw from Montville, New Jersey, join the roster as freshmen.
Utah will begin its season on Jan. 8 against in-state rival BYU at the Huntsman Center at 6 p.m.