She definitely has a fire to her, and I think she brings that competitiveness to our team. Her want to win helps us as a team want to get to that level. —Utah freshman Sydney Soloski
SALT LAKE CITY — Some athletes fly under the radar, contributions unnoticed, but their impact is felt mightily by their teammates. Others occupy the spotlight, rightfully so, and their value is readily understood by all.
Then there is a rare kind of athlete, those whose impact behind the scenes is the equal of their incredible performance in the limelight.
Utah gymnastics’ MyKayla Skinner is one of those athletes.
Anyone familiar with collegiate gymnastics knows what Skinner brings to the floor.
She is a 13-time All-American (four-time NCAA and nine-time NACGC) and a five-time Pac-12 champion, not to mention the reigning NCAA champion on floor exercise.
As of Tuesday, April 3, she is once again a First Team All-Pac-12 gymnast and was the only gymnast in the conference to earn First Team status on every apparatus, as well as the all-around.
Her accomplishments do not end there. That she has done all of this and more before the conclusion of her sophomore season makes it all the more impressive, if not kind of unbelievable.
Yet her individual successes are just part of what makes her invaluable to Utah gymnastics.
Skinner provides the Red Rocks with an almost unassailable confidence.
“She brings a certain confidence to the team, a swagger,” said Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden. “The girls know that the top programs have big names on their team. When you have a name on your team, it kind of gives you permission to be in a certain (elite) group so to speak.
“Mikki brings that for us. She is a name and we have athletes on the team that have more confidence because she is a part of our group.”
Part of the reason her name holds so much weight is her nearly flawless execution. Skinner has hit on every one of her 98 career routines at Utah, a school record.
“We know for a fact that she is going to hit her routine, without a doubt kind of thing,” said Kari Lee. “She has not missed a routine, and that is just unreal. To be on point every single weekend for three and a half months straight is incredible. Everyone makes mistakes, but we know if you have a mess up in lineup, you have an anchor (in Skinner).”
“She just has that level of trust where you know that she is going to hit,” added MaKenna Merrell-Giles. “We know we are going to end up with a high scoring, almost guaranteed hit on every event.”
That was particularly evident at the recent Pac-12 championships. The Red Rocks had their share of miscues in Tucson, with falls on bars and beam, but Skinner was there to pick up the slack, as always.
She nailed her uneven bars, balance beam and floor routines, scoring a 9.90 or better on each apparatus.
Her positive influence went beyond the scores, however.
After UCLA took the lead heading into the final rotation, the Red Rocks were more than a little unnerved, but Skinner rallied the group.
“We were all a little shocked when UCLA came back so strong (on beam),” Missy Reinstadtler said. “MyKayla told us we had it, that we could still do it. She is the reason we came back so much on vault.”
While the Red Rocks rally ultimately fell short, that never-say-die attitude is emblematic of yet another way Skinner influences the Utes for the better.
“She is very feisty and extremely competitive,” said Sydney Soloski. “She definitely has a fire to her, and I think she brings that competitiveness to our team. Her want to win helps us as a team want to get to that level.”
“She is such an inspiration,” added Alexia Burch. “Having her in my group makes me work twice as hard and twice as fast.”
That competitive spirit often spills into practice, where Skinner will take time out of her own training to work with teammates.
“She is always there helping with a skill or correction,” said Burch. “You wouldn’t necessarily think she would help out coaching, but she’ll take the time and help us with a skill.”
When she isn’t coaching her teammates, she is cracking them up.
“She definitely has a very funny personality,” said Tiffani Lewis. “She kind of has these moments where you are like ‘Wait, what did she just say?’ It definitely brings the energy in the gym and her laugh is contagious. She makes everyone laugh.”
“She is just fun,” added Merrell-Giles. “She likes to laugh, is always giggling and always has funny things that she says.”
Whether she intends it or not, her sense of humor has its uses, beyond an abdominal workout.
“She will lighten things up,” said Soloski. “She doesn’t get stressed about little things at meets or at practice, and that helps us see that we don’t need to either.”
From the moment she arrived on campus in October of 2016, Skinner has been a positive and invaluable part of the Red Rocks, and if her time at the U. has been any indication, she will continue to be for as long as she is on campus.
“I’m just glad she is on my team,” said Marsden.