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Utah gymnastics ranks 5th in preseason poll

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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah gymnastics team was selected to finish fifth at the 2018 NCAA Championships in the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches for Women’s preseason poll that was released on Monday.

The Red Rocks, who finished fifth last season, follow Oklahoma — which is predicted to win a third-straight national title — Florida, LSU, and Alabama.

The defending Pac-12 Champion’s projection tops its conference opponents, including No. 6 UCLA, No. 11 California, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 15 Washington, and No. 18 Stanford.

Utah will compete against seven preseason top-20 teams. A quad meet in Reno, Nevada on January 14 features UCLA, Washington, and Stanford. Seventh-ranked Michigan, California, Oregon State, and 16th-ranked Georgia are also on the Utes’ schedule.

New to the Utes this year is the opportunity for the gymnasts to compete on podium in the Elevate the Stage quad meet. It will mark the first time Utah will compete on podium, where all events are elevated on a platform, during the regular season. It can be an advantage for the Red Rocks in the postseason as regional and Super Six competitions take place on podium.

“(It) will allow our gymnasts to experience competing on podium prior to the postseason — something other top teams have done in recent years that has proved advantageous from them at the NCAA Championship,” Utah co-head coach Tom Farden said.

Also in Utah’s favor is the return of nearly all its 2017 roster. The Red Rocks lost just two athletes — senior Baely Rowe to graduation and junior Sabrina Schwab to medical retirement.

Sophomore MyKayla Skinner headlines the Utes’ lineup as the 2017 NCAA floor exercise champion and all-around runner-up. She is one of five returning All-Americans along with seniors Tiffani Lewis and Maddy Stover, and juniors Kari Lee and MaKenna Merrell-Giles.

The team will hold its annual Red Rocks Preview for fans to see the team in action on Friday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. MST in the Huntsman Center. The Red Rocks’ season begins on Friday, Jan. 5 in a home meet against BYU.

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