Utah Utes gymnastics: Kyndal Robarts' return all about the love of gymnastics
Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden admitted heading into the 2012 season there was a little bit of awkwardness he had to deal with. The coach didn't have a scholarship for his standout Kyndal Robarts. Robarts was set to finish up her career in 2011, but suffered a season-ending knee injury during warmups of the Utes' third meet. With plans to bring in the talented, current freshman class, all of the Red Rock scholarships were already promised elsewhere.
Marsden said Robarts had to make a tough decision after being granted a medical hardship and in essence a do-over of her senior season.
"The option was come back and she would have to pay her own way, or if she didn't want to come back we could give her a fifth-year scholarship," said Marsden.
Fifth-year scholarships are given to athletes who have suffered major injuries or have exhausted their eligibility, but have not yet graduated.
"She gave up the money to compete another year. It was tough for all of us because we certainly didn't expect her to do that. We didn't want to discourage her, but it was awkward because at times we weren't pushing her and she wasn't sure if we wanted her back which was ridiculous," explained Marsden.
Ecstatic with Robarts' decision, Marsden has been his gymnast's biggest cheerleader this season. He's credited her with being one of three great senior leaders on a very young team, and for overcoming her fear of landing on her recovered knee. In Utah's victory over Stanford last week, Marsden smiled during his interview session and said Robarts is a rock. The coach also admitted he really hopes she gets a 10.0 before her career is over.
The San Marcos, Texas, native came oh so close to the 10.0 in the win over the Cardinal, recording a career-best 9.975 on vault. The effort earned her the event victory, and was recognized Tuesday as the Pac-12's Special Performance of the Week. The senior also earned the win on beam with a 9.875 against Stanford.
"Last year really woke me up and made me realize how much I love competing and being part of the whole atmosphere of gymnastics," said Robarts. "The injury made me miss it.
"This year we have a really talented team, and the season has been exciting and fun. I'm really honored to be on this team."
Robarts' teammates share the affinity.
"She gives good advice with academics, and in the gym. She's just a really great person to be around," said freshman Becky Tutka.
Robarts isn't shy about expressing her opinion around academics. The senior was asked to sit on a student panel last week at the University of Utah's the Pac-12 and You Conference. The conference explored leveraging membership in the league for the U.'s academic mission.
Robarts, who is a scholastic all-American, emphasized that student-athletes should invest in their academics and in being a student.
She's also been expressive about how exciting it is to join the Pac-12 and be part of a conference.
"It's really neat to host the Pac-12 championships in our first season," said Robarts. "I'm excited for our fans to experience it with us."
As for the decision to come back this year, Robarts doesn't blink an eye.
"I'm fortunate that my parents were supportive and let me make the decision.
"This team is really awesome. I would have been really disappointed if I had missed out on this," said Robarts.
Up next for No. 7 Utah is No. 9 Oregon State in the Huntsman Center Friday at 7 p.m.
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