SALT LAKE CITY — Call it a bad thing. Call it a good thing. The reality is there’s something special about a freshman athlete’s fearless attitude. Considering Utah gymnast Baely Rowe labeled the balance beam “daring,” the freshman seems to fit this mold perfectly.
“I just love being on the beam and competing on it. I don’t know why other gymnasts don’t like it,” Rowe said. “It’s a great challenge to stay on something 4 inches wide.”
Though the Utah coaches knew Rowe would be in contention this season for a spot in the beam lineup, the brevity of her time as the alternate was shorter than anyone anticipated. Rowe was thrown into the mix in the first meet of the season after junior Kassandra Lopez tore her Achilles in warm-ups.
Rowe hit for a 9.75 in her debut. Her one glitch to date came when she fell the following week at Cal, but Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden said she wasn’t worried at that point because the first road meet is tough for everyone.
Since then, Rowe has recorded two 9.825s, one of which came on the road at Arizona State. In Utah’s last meet against Arizona, she saw that figure drop to 9.775. But after being moved to the leadoff position for that meet, she’s accepting of the likelihood of having a lower score as long as it sets up her five teammates and benefits the team.
“It’s a bit rare to have a freshman in that leadoff role, but I really think Baely is going to be fine,” said Marsden. “I told her that, ‘We are going to do great things on the beam together.'”
Beam wasn’t even the event Rowe starred in at the junior Olympic championships. In 2013, she won the all-around, but it was the uneven bars she won in both 2010 and 2012.
Rowe knows she’ll have plenty of time at Utah to compete for a spot in the bars’ lineup as well as the other events. She admits she won't let herself become complacent because her goal is to crack those lineups.
Part of what drives Rowe is the competitive spirit of her family. She describes the Rowe clan as a fun group that likes to compete against each other in everything from a board game to a backyard soccer match.
“We do like to have a lot of fun with each other. I think my mom is probably the most competitive of all of us,” laughed Rowe.
Rowe is the third member of her family to compete for a Pac-12 school. But her path is different from her brother Kelyn and sister Bree, who played soccer at UCLA and Oregon, respectively. Kelyn now plays for the New England Revolution.
“I chose Utah because I felt like it was the right place for me, and gymnastics was the sport I always loved the most,” Rowe said. “Being a part of this team is really a neat thing, and being able to compete my first year is really unbelievable.”
Utah leads the nation on vault and floor and is fourth on bars. However, the Utes are only 12th in beam. That's something Rowe and her teammates look to improve on on Monday at No. 10 Stanford.
The undefeated Red Rocks are ranked No. 4, and have had more than a week to prepare for the Cardinal. Marsden believes the extra rest will benefit Utah rather than slow its momentum after the team hit a scorching 197.825 against Arizona. The meet begins at 3 p.m. and will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.