SALT LAKE CITY — She'll be 18 years old in a little over a month, but Tory Wilson hasn't taken advantage of being the youngest member of the top-ranked Utah gymnastics team like she probably could.
Rather, Wilson has made no excuses and has done nothing but impress her coaches and teammates as she's tried to fit in to the Red Rocks' system.
"She is such a powerful gymnast," said Ute senior Stephanie McAllister. "I wish I could do gymnastics as big as she does. She's also such a positive person that it adds a lot to our team."
Wilson never expected to start her collegiate gymnastics' career early. But she was open to the opportunity after growing somewhat bored with her club career. It wasn't that she wasn't having fun or being challenged, but rather that she had been competing at Level 10 for five years. No upward movement was available for the Albuquerque native.
"At the first of my junior year of high school, I had the scholarship offer come in from Utah. Then Greg and Megan (Marsden) talked to me about coming a year early," said Wilson. "I never knew it was going to be so much work."
Wilson laughs now, but admits the rigorous schedule last year was pretty brutal, even for a hyper teenager.
"It was really hard. I had morning practice for gym, and then I went to school all day," she said. "After that, I had afternoon practice and night school. Then I would go home to do homework for regular school and then I would finally get to sleep."
Another tricky part of the equation was that Wilson had to spend the summer finishing up her senior classes, meaning she missed out on the bridge program where Utah's other four freshmen came early to ease the adjustment to campus life.
"It's been a process with her," said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden.
"Because she was finishing up high school through summer, she didn't get the same experience as the other freshmen. She was a little bit of an outcast because the others knew each other well.
"But I've seen her maturing every week and she's getting more and more confident and comfortable with the team and in the arena."
Wilson admits it was difficult to be the last girl to the ball, and even second-guessed her decision to graduate early from high school.
"It was tough at the beginning of the first semester," she said. "I was questioning did I really do all of that hard work to now have a hard time fitting in? But especially since the season has started, it definitely has been worth it because I've been able to get to know everyone and because we are having a great season."
As far as fitting in, Wilson earned a 4.0 GPA in her first semester, admitting it was actually a relief to focus on competing in only one event — vault — this season. She stepped in the last minute to lead off vault in the season-opener at UCLA and did so through three more meets — meaning all five freshmen are contributing in their debut seasons.
Wilson was just promoted to the third spot in the vault lineup against Arizona State last Sunday and tied her career-best of 9.875.
Marsden admits the promotion was earned.
"She is just a very talented athlete — very powerful," said Marsden. "She needs to continue to work on her execution — she's so powerful that her execution is a little rough. But she's really focused on that, and has gotten much better. We're excited to see how much better she continues to get."
Still the best
The University of Utah women's gymnastics team kept its No. 1 national ranking for a third straight week. Utah's average of 196.855 held up to No. 2 Florida's 196.833.
The Gators posted the nation's best team score of the season at 197.850 in their win over LSU last week. The Utes, who have three scores over 197.0 this season to help their average, also remained the top-ranked beam and floor team despite counting a fall on floor at No. 25 Arizona State on Sunday.
Utah is back in action on the road against Michigan on Friday.
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