SALT LAKE CITY — When the No. 3-ranked Red Rocks take the floor at the Huntsman Center on Saturday afternoon, the 13 gymnasts announced before them, clad in purple and gold, will be more than a little familiar.
After all, Saturday’s meet marks the second time this season that Utah and No. 15 Washington will face off.
The first clash came early in the year at the Elevate the Stage quad meet held in Reno, Nevada, where the Utes edged out out the Huskies for second place.
The Red Rocks have only gotten better since that meeting, improving their team score in every subsequent competition.
The same can be said for the Huskies, who are coming off their best showing of the season at the Metroplex Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas.
Washington finished third in that meet, falling to No. 2 LSU and No. 4 UCLA.
Hailey Burleson led the way, with a 9.900 on beam, the season-high for the Huskies. Three other GymDawgs set new career highs as well, including Monica Riley, Haley Roy and Evanni Roberson.
Improvement aside, the Utes have had the Huskies number, whether in Salt Lake City or Seattle. Utah holds a commanding 56-0-2 lead in the series, including a perfect 23-0 mark at home.
A cursory glance through any of the Red Rocks all-time series, Pac-12 or otherwise, reveals a similar level of success, the obvious reason stemming from the caliber of gymnasts the school attracts.
Current teammates such as MyKayla Skinner and MaKenna Merrell-Giles, among others, attest to that fact.
And yet, both of those Red Rocks — in fact, most of them — have called the western United States home for much, if not all of their lives. On a purely geographic level it makes sense that they would attend the University of Utah.
But for Missy Reinstadtler, Erika Muhaw and Macey Roberts, the decision to attend the U was something else altogether.
Both Reinstadtler and Muhaw hail from New Jersey, Reinstadtler from Brick Township, Muhaw from Montville Township.
Neither gymnast was familiar with Utah, or as Reinstadtler put it, “I had never really heard of Utah, never been to the U, so I was just kind of indifferent toward it.”
As freshmen in high school, both gymnasts were recruited by co-head coach Tom Farden.
“Tom just came (to New Jersey) and reached out to my coaches,” said Reinstadtler.
“I was recruited by Tom,” added Muhaw. “He started sending me letters when I was looking at colleges.”
Eventually both Garden State natives were offered scholarships as well as the opportunity to come and visit the campus.
And while the gymnastics program played a significant role in their respective decisions to become Red Rocks, “the coaches were very straightforward and told me I could do great things here. I liked that,” said Reinstadtler.
It was the Wasatch Front that did them in.
“The mountains just drew me in,” said Muhaw. “There was a whole different vibe going on. I absolutely loved the mountains and outdoors. It was breathtaking. I came out here and I fell in love.”
“It was beautiful and there was a really nice lifestyle about it that I liked,” added Reinstadtler. “It was very outdoorsy and there was a lot to do. I just liked how much there was going on.”
Roberts journey to the U was entirely different. The junior from McDonald, Tennessee, attended the University of Maryland for her freshman season before transferring to Utah, yet her reasons for donning the red and white were nearly identical.1 comment on this story
“I wanted to reach my potential in gymnastics, so I decide to explore my other options,” said Roberts. “I honestly don’t remember why I had heard of Utah, but it was one of my top choices. I came here and I fell in love with the team, the coaches, the atmosphere, everything. I knew this is where I wanted to be.”
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Red Rocks on the air
No. 15 Washington (195.981)
at No. 3 Utah (197.244)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MT
Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, UT
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: ESPN 700 AM
Online: Live scores: UtahUtes.com