Red Rocks Head To Rio Tinto Best of Utah On Saturday For 2021 Opener
The preseason No. 4-ranked Utah gymnasts will compete at the second annual Rio Tinto Best of Utah NCAA Gymnastics meet on Saturday, Jan. 9 to open the 2021 season. The podium event featuring all four of Utah's Division I gymnastics programs – Utah, Brigham Young, Southern Utah, and Utah State – will begin at 7 p.m. MT at the Maverik Center in West Valley City. The Rio Tinto Best of Utah will be televised on BYUtv, as well as broadcast live on ESPN700 radio.
• No. 4 Utah will begin the podium event on bars, while No. 17 BYU starts on beam, No. 23 Southern Utah on vault, and Utah State on floor.
• Utah won the inaugural Rio Tinto Best of Utah last season after posting a 197.000 in the second week of the season to cruise to the title over Utah's in-state foes. BYU placed second, Southern Utah finished third, while Utah State rounded out the standings in fourth.
• The Utes will compete in a quad meet as the season opener for the first time since the 2014 season.
• Utah has never competed at a neutral site location for all participating teams in a season opener in the history of the program.
• Utah holds a 55-6 record in season openers.
• Utah returns 17-of-24 routines from the undefeated 2020 season. The Red Rocks return 10 letterwinners from the Pac-12 Regular Season championship team, which includes the return of four 2020 regular season All-Americans.
• Senior Sydney Soloski earned All-American honors on floor for the second time of her career (1 NCAA, 1 Regular Season) after finishing the season ranked No. 11 in the nation. Junior Cristal Isa collected two All-American honors last year, finishing ranked No. 9 on beam and No. 16 on bars. Sophomores Maile O'Keefe and Abby Paulson round out the returning All-Americans after both earned the honor on beam as freshmen. Paulson finished ranked No. 9, while O'Keefe was ranked No. 13.
• Utah's three captains, voted on by the team, are seniors Alexia Burch, Emilie LeBlanc and Sydney Soloski.
• All three Utah freshmen – Jaylene Gilstrap, Alani Sabado, and Lucy Stanhope – saw action at the Red Rocks Preview. Stanhope saw action on all four events, while Gilstrap performed on floor and Sabado on bars. Jaedyn Rucker has returned from the knee injury that had kept her out of the 2020 season. Rucker saw action on vault, bars and floor at the Red Rocks Preview.
• Utah returns its entire beam lineup from a year ago who finished ranked No. 2 in the nation on the apparatus. The lineup smashed the previous school record on beam that had stood since 1995 and posted a 49.775 – the highest beam score in the nation in 2020.
• Utah leads BYU 100-2 in the all-time series and is undefeated on a neutral floor (26-0).
• Utah holds a 25-0 mark in the all-time series over Southern Utah and has picked up six wins over SUU at a neutral site.
• Utah leads Utah State 90-3 in the history between the two teams and is 23-1 on a neutral floor.
Coach: Guard Young (6th season)
2021 Preseason Ranking: 17
2020 Final Ranking: 16
Notes: BYU finished the 2020 season ranked No. 16 in the nation, which was the program's highest final ranking in 15 years … Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference champions for first time in school history in 2020 … BYU is led by all-arounder Abbey Miner, who earned first-team All-Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference honors in the all-around and on floor.
Coach: Scott Bauman (30th year)
2021 Preseason Ranking: 23
2020 Final Ranking: 22
Notes: Southern Utah finished the 2020 season 6-7 overall, 3-4 in MRGC play … Key returner is all-arounder Karley McClain … McClain earned conference first-team all-around honors last year with nine event titles … SUU finished 2020 with a team NQS of 196.165.
SCOUTING UTAH STATE
Coach: Amy Smith (4th year)
2021 Preseason Ranking: N/A
2020 Final Ranking: N/A
Notes: The Aggies finished 7-6-1 last season to mark the first season that ended with a winning record since 1999 … Head coach Amy Smith was named the MRGC Coach of the Year, Autumn DeHarde earned Gymnast of the Year, and Sofi Sullivan was named the Freshman of the Year … Utah State was on track to earn an NCAA Regional berth, which would have been the program's first since 2017.
FOR THE FANS
Tickets to the Rio Tinto Best of Utah are still available and fans can purchase tickets through the Maverik Center website to attend this year's in-state clash on podium. The Maverik Center's allowed capacity for the event will be around 1,700 fans based on the arena's work with state and local health officials. To ensure proper social distancing measures, seating will be sold in pods of 1-8 tickets. Fans must purchase the correct pod size for their group.
No. 4 Utah heads to Norman, Okla. on Sunday, Jan. 17 to take on the No. 2-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. The meet will be nationally televised on ESPN2 with the meet slated to begin at 3 p.m. MT at the Lloyd Noble Center.