Red Rocks ready to open Pac-12 competition


#6 Utah hosts Arizona Saturday in empty Huntsman Center

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – There definitely was a sense of relief when the #6 Utes gymnastics team found out they’d be able to compete this season after all.

The Red Rocks had already competed in two meets this season, but nothing else was on the docket, until the Pac-12 released its 2021 schedule on Tuesday.

“Yeah, our athletes and the staff were getting a little anxious,” said head coach Tom Farden. “It was a huge sigh of relief to know that it’s a green light and we’ve got a bunch of competitions coming up ahead of us.”

There is no atmosphere in all of collegiate gymnastics like that in the Huntsman Center. But with no fans allowed this year, the Red Rocks are going to have to provide their own energy.

“It’s definitely going to be really weird being in there in an actual meet without the fans,” said senior Sydney Soloski. “But we’ve worked really hard in practice to make sure we have enough energy in our own team that we don’t really need the crowd.”

“It’s definitely going to be different than my freshman season when we had 15,000 plus people in there,” added sophomore Maile O’Keefe. “Now, there’s probably going to be ten. But I feel like we’ll definitely draw from each other’s energy.”

After finishing on top at the Best of Utah meet over BYU, Utah State and Southern Utah, the Utes had a great early-season test last week, going toe to toe with the defending national champion Oklahoma. Despite O’Keefe winning the all-around, the Utes came up short in their first regular season loss since March of 2019.

“Moving forward, I think that it showed us that we are definitely as competitive as and Oklahoma or one of those top teams,” Soloski said. “Seeing them early in the season will help us in the postseason. Seeing them and saying, ‘oh my gosh, how much better are they than us? Are we as good as them?’ We already know, and we already have that baseline.”

“Last year was a very memorable year,” Farden said of Utah’s perfect season, which was cut short because of the pandemic. “I know how hard it is to win, but to run the table last year was something special. This year, we’ve already got one ding, we’re 3-1. But they’ve moved on, and they’re really looking forward to this season.”

Utah has eight more regular season meets in 2021, beginning Saturday against Arizona at 1:00 p.m.

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