SALT LAKE CITY — If there is one word, one idea that traverses the world of sports indiscriminately, it is rhythm and the need for it. Athletes are constantly, desperately, in need of rhythm.
The examples are nearly endless. In baseball, from pitchers to batters, rhythm is vital. Find a player who is struggling and it is because they aren’t in a good rhythm.
In basketball, shooters need to get into a rhythm. Quarterbacks need rhythm. Boxers, wrestlers, golfers, the list goes on and on. Athletes, no matter the sport, need a good rhythm and gymnasts are no different.
Of course in gymnastics, rhythm is more important on certain events than others. Vault goes by so fast that the only rhythm possible to gain is during the sprint to the apparatus itself, a jaunt that is over before it begins.
Rhythm is vital on floor exercise, with all the dancing and tumbling, and yet the margin of error is greater. Recovery is possible, making poor rhythm something that can be overcome.
It is on the uneven bars and balance beam where rhythm is most important.
“Those events are so rhythm-based and intricate,” said Utah co-head coach Tom Farden. “On bars, if you are off by half an inch you are on your face. On balance beam, the beam is about as wide as the length of your credit card.”
“With those events what we try to do is bring up different scenarios in the gym to help the gymnasts,” Farden continued. “To help them be more accustomed to working with confidence and do their best. We are going to continue to work on that.”
That work, the work that has the Red Rocks ranked No. 3 in the country, is done in practice.
Yes, we are talkin’ bout practice.
Per NCAA rules, each Red Rock is limited to 20 hours of practice per week, a maximum of four hours in any one day.
As a result, each day of practice, held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and sometimes Friday, has a little bit of everything.
“We try to touch up on every event every time we practice,” said junior All-American Kari Lee. “We will have primary floor or vault days. Depending on the day, we will have a harder floor day and then we will do some drills on vault.”
“On vault days,” Lee continued, “we do harder vault (training) and maybe one tumbling pass (on floor).”
As for bars and beam, those rhythm-hungry events, Lee noted, “we try to get the routine in on those events every single day. Bars and beam are definitely the two events that we work on the hardest. (They) are just about very small minute details and if you are off by a centimeter things will change just like that.”
It is for that reason that the lineups on those events are so important. Gymnasts get into a rhythm, based on when they are to perform and which teammates are ahead or behind them, a fact which makes the Red Rocks’ showing on beam against Oregon State all the more impressive.
Utah scored a season-best 49.200 on the event, despite shuffling the lineup.
“We knew the rhythm might be a little bit off, in terms of building scores, but we were pleasantly surprised,” said Farden.
MyKayla Skinner was one of the gymnasts to move in the lineup successfully, scoring a season-best 9.925 on the beam.
“(The change in beam lineup) was definitely weird,” said Skinner. “I remember when they were telling us the lineup, I didn’t even realize I was going last at first. Then it was like, '‘That’s crazy. I’m going last? What?!'"
Like any elite gymnast, Skinner found a way to avoid losing her rhythm during the event.
“At the meet, I just convinced myself in my head that I was still going fifth,” said Skinner. “Missy (Reinstadtler) moved to fifth and I was sixth, so I just pretended I was in the same order I was before.”
The Red Rocks’ rhythm, and their ability to maintain it, will be put to the test again this weekend as they travel to Tucson, Arizona.
The No. 21 Wildcats, coming off a defeat at the hands of No. 4 UCLA, posted their season-best team score (195.750) last weekend. Leading the way was senior Kennady Schneider, who earned first place on floor with a 9.900.
Other standouts for the 'GymCats' included sophomore Maddi Leydin (39.200 in all-around) and senior Madison Cindric (9.875 on bars).
RED ROCKS ON THE AIR
No. 3 Utah (197.142) at No. 21 Arizona (195.383)*
Friday, 6 p.m. MDT
McKale Center, Tucson, AZ
TV: Pac-12 Network
Online: Live scores and commentary: UtahUtes.com
Official live scores: arizonawildcats.com
- Teams are ranked by season-average scores until six meets have been completed. Rankings are then based on the RQS (Regional Qualifying score) system. RQS is calculated by taking a team's top six regular-season meet scores, (three of which must be on the road), removing the highest overall score and then taking the average of the remaining five scores.