I definitely feel like their contributions, you can’t see it on paper. —Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden
SALT LAKE CITY — When the No. 4-ranked Red Rocks take the floor at the Huntsman Center Friday night, opposite the No. 20 Georgia Gymdogs, it will have been 35 days since they last competed at home.
In that more than month-long stretch, Utah gymnastics experienced its highest highs and lowest lows of the season.
There was the win at No. 3 UCLA, a first in 10 years for the Utes. That triumph was followed by back-to-back defeats, however, to No. 10 California and No. 7 Michigan.
After experiencing such a violent swing and the emotions that followed, good and bad, the Red Rocks are thrilled to be back within their home arena's friendly confines.
“We get to be home. We haven’t been home in four weeks now,” said Tiffani Lewis. “We get to sleep in our own beds. That’s exciting.”
Friday’s meet is more than just a much-needed regular-season home meet though.
It is Senior Night.
For Lewis, Maddy Stover and Erika Muhaw, it is the final home meet of their Red Rocks careers (the Utes host NCAA Regionals this season).
“I get in moods where I feel excited, sad, nervous and anxious,” said Lewis. “A lot of my family is coming in and it is against Georgia; there is a little bit of a rivalry there. Oftentimes I try not to think about it (being my final regular-season home meet). It is definitely sad and overwhelming, but I know we are anxious and excited to compete.”
On paper, Lewis has had the most success of any of the departing seniors. She is an NCAA All-American (vault), a two-time Pac-12 champion (floor and vault) and a three-time All-Pac-12 gymnast.
“I think Tiffani has been able to do almost all of the gymnastics that she had hoped to do here,” said co-head coach Megan Marsden. “She has been a regular for us, on three events, doing great things.”
Stover's and Muhaw’s Utah careers have been a somewhat different story, however.
Stover is an All-American as well, on beam, but was unable to maintain that level due to injuries.
“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,” said Stover.
Muhaw, meanwhile, has had only six career routines, all on vault.
“(Maddy and Erika) have not been as fortunate to be able to do as much gymnastics as they hoped for Utah gymnastics,” said Marsden.
Despite that, their impact on the program has been immeasurable. They will be profoundly missed.
“I definitely feel like their contributions, you can’t see it on paper,” said Marsden. “You can’t say, 'We lose this many routines and next year we have these freshmen coming in to gain routines.’ With (Maddy and Erika) it will be more subtle. It will be kind of a slow leak.”
Leadership is perhaps the area the seniors made their biggest mark.
“In terms of their dynamics within the group, their leadership and their personality, those things are going to be missed,” said Marsden. “I am a little afraid for that.”
“They all have something different that they bring to the team and their personalities bonded us, brought us closer together,” said sophomore MyKayla Skinner. “It’ll be sad to have them leave. They’ve helped us in so many ways. They have been the team captains and on each event they help us so much as a team.”
“I just don’t think that people on the outside realize some of that,” added Marsden. “When you work with them every day for years, you know.”
The trio will be honored prior to Friday’s meet, at 7:10 p.m. with a ‘Night with the Stars.’
Of course, the rival Gymdogs (4-8) will look to spoil the celebration.
Utah and Georgia have one of the longest and most storied rivalries in college gymnastics. The powerhouse programs have combined to win 20 national titles.
Moreover, the overall series couldn't be much closer, with Georgia holding a 28-25-1 advantage.
The Gymdogs are in their first season under head coach, and former Gymdog, Courtney Kupets Carter.
They are currently ranked 28th on vault, 15th on bars, 16th on beam, and 12th on floor. Overall they are led by Rachel Dickson, who is 16th in the national all-around rankings.
Red Rocks on the air
No. 20 Georgia (196.365) at
No. 4 Utah (197.415)
Friday, 7:30 p.m. MDT
Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, UT
Radio: ESPN 700 AM
Online: Live scores: UtahUtes.com
EMAIL: [email protected]