I can’t say enough about (Maddy). She has her fingers in so many facets that are helping our program. It is really quite amazing. —Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden, on Maddy Stover
SALT LAKE CITY — Having spent the majority of the season within the friendly confines of the Huntsman Center, as four of their six completed meets have been at home, the No. 3 Red Rocks are about to embark on the most difficult stretch of their season.
Starting with this weekends meet at UCLA, set for 6 p.m. Sunday evening, Utah will go 29 days without competing in front of their home fans.
That nearly monthlong stretch includes meets against the No. 2 Bruins, No. 23 California Bears and No. 6 Michigan Wolverines.
With such a challenging schedule ahead, the Red Rocks will need to be at their best in order to maintain their standing as one of the elite gymnastics teams in the country, none more so than MyKayla Skinner.
The star sophomore had struggled, by her ridiculous standards, in the weeks leading up to last weekend's victory over Arizona State, but that all changed against the Sun Devils.
Skinner was elite in every event, winning the all-around title with a 39.675. Her performance was good enough to earn her the honor of Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week, her third such award this season, which also doubled as the record-breaking 10th of her career.
She attributed the turnaround to a change in her mindset, noting “I had such a successful season last year and I have just been really hard on myself. There is no need for that. I can do just as good without putting that pressure on. I felt like I really did that this last week. I just enjoyed the moment.”
Helping Skinner come to said realization was Maddy Stover.
“Maddy has been talking to me about that,” said Skinner. “I was at practice one day and she was like, ‘Mikki, come talk to me’. She talked to me for about five minutes and gave me some good tips. She has been there telling me to go and relax. Eventually, I will probably have to be a leader of the team, and Maddy has been reminding me I need to just enjoy the moment.”
Those familiar with the Red Rocks know that that is just who Stover is. An All-American, co-captain and member of the leadership council, she is anything and everything her teammates need.
“I can’t say enough about (Maddy),” said Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden. “She has her fingers in so many facets that are helping our program. It is really quite amazing.”
Rather than go to their coaches, the Red Rocks often turn to Stover when they have issues, problems or concerns of any kind.
“Maddy has good trust with the girls,” said Marsden. “They go to her. She’ll try to work on it with them and than try to manage it in a mature way. That makes our life (as coaches) easier a lot of times.”
“I think it is kind of a natural thing for me,’ said Stover. “They all call me the mom of the team. I think I really embodied it once I was kind of pulled away from all I could do out on the floor, just due to injuries and arthritis and whatever, the laundry list.”
Being the Red Rocks support system hasn’t been easy for Stover, however. A competitive and elite collegiate gymnast in her own right, she struggled with her ailments and the effect they had on her ability to be a gymnast. It wasn’t until this year, her senior season, that she really accepted her role.
“I think I was able to see that role impact my team in a positive way and with it being my last year I just decided to kind of embody that,” said Stover. “I am at peace with it and hope it has been helpful to this team.”
The Red Rocks will need Stover, the "mom" and the gymnast, as well as Skinner, among others, if they are to compete with the Bruins Sunday.
UCLA comes into the meet having posted its highest team score of the season, a 197.750, on Feb. 10 against California. The Bruins' depth was on full display in the win, as they scored a 49.400 or better on vault, floor and beam despite only one gymnast, freshman Nia Dennis, competing on more than two events.
RED ROCKS ON THE AIR
No. 3 Utah (197.292) at
No. 2 UCLA (197.346)
Sunday, 6 p.m. MDT
Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Pac-12 Network
Online: Official live scores: uclabruins.com
Live Utah commentary and scores: UtahUtes.com