SALT LAKE CITY — Mention the name Macey Roberts around members of the Utah gymnastics team and eyes light up like those of children on Christmas morning.
Smiles creep out from the corners of mouths and the gymnasts, already a jollier bunch than most, can’t help but exude positive feelings.
The same can be said for their coaches.
When asked about Roberts, co-head coach Megan Marsden couldn’t help but grin and Tom Farden has been the same.
It is easy to see why the mere mention of Roberts engenders such a response.
A senior from McDonald, Tennessee, Roberts has been as good and as consistent as any Utah gymnast not named MyKayla Skinner.
Through three meets she hasn’t recorded a score lower than a 9.850, something no other gymnast on the team has managed.
She is one of just four Red Rocks to earn a 9.900 or better, alongside Skinner, MaKenna Merrell-Giles and Cristal Isa.
She has, as noted by Marsden, “perfectly stuck” two of her three vaults, including the best vault of her career, performed against BYU.
Then there are her contributions on floor, where as the leadoff gymnast Roberts has set the tone for team scores of 49.375, and 49.400 twice.
“She has really skyrocketed,” said Marsden.
“She is doing awesome,” added Merrell-Giles. “We are super proud of her.”
Her recent performances alone are worthy of such praise, but much more so when her collegiate gymnastics career is considered.
Roberts wasn’t always a Red Rock. She started at the University of Maryland in 2016 and by the end of her freshman season was an NCAA regional qualifier on floor, and arguably the best Terrapin gymnast.
That convinced her she could do better.
“After that, I knew I could do more,” said Roberts. “I had done gymnastics my entire life and I loved it at Maryland, but I knew I could do more with the sport.”
She looked at elite programs across the country and marketed herself to teams that had hardly recruited her out of high school.
One of those was Utah.
“I came the summer before (my sophomore year) and just fell in love with it,” Roberts said. “I knew that this was where I wanted to be.”
The feeling was mutual, but the transition to Utah was anything but easy.
“It was a lot different training-wise,” she said, “but I didn’t want to come Utah to sit on the sideline on a successful team. I wanted to contribute.”
“She came in knowing that she was coming from a different level program and she was really going to have to step it up,” Marsden added. “She did that and was rewarded for it.”
Roberts was an integral part of the team that first season. She hit 23 of 23 routines, was a two-event starter on floor and vault and tied her career-high (9.900 on floor) at the Pac-12 championships.
Everything seemed to be set up for her to thrive her junior season, but that didn’t happen.
Instead, Roberts took a step back. She lost her regular position in lineup and performed just six total routines.
“Last year, for whatever reason, she wasn’t the same Macey,” said Marsden. “Tom and I often wondered what had happened to Macey, and Robert (Ladanyi), who was a new coach, kept asking ‘where is the Macey you guys were talking about?’”
The culprit behind her struggles was something well-known to all gymnasts — injury.
Prior to the 2017-18 season, Roberts felt a pain in her hip, one she had felt before. As a senior in high school, she had torn the labrum in her hip, so when an identical type pain emerged in the opposite hip, Roberts knew exactly what it was.
Rather than have season-ending surgery, she decided to fight through the pain.
“I wanted to try and get through season before having surgery,” Roberts said. “It didn’t really go as planned. The hardest part was (my hip) would give out on me. I can push through pain, but I couldn’t really push through when it gave out.”
After the season, doctors determined that Roberts had not only been competing with a torn labrum, she had torn one of the ligaments that connects the ball and socket in her hip, had severe cartilage damage and even worse bone bruising, “from my bones basically hitting for six months,” she said.
The injuries sapped her confidence — “she had a hard time last year and was really hard on herself,” Skinner said. “It is hard when you don’t make lineup every week. You can bring yourself down” — but heading into this, her senior season, Roberts decided she had nothing to lose.1 comment on this story
“This is it for me with gymnastics," she said. "I realized that I needed to give it my all every single day in practice, from the day I started training again to the last day I compete."
The results have been telling.
“All of a sudden, here is Macey again,” said Marsden. “The one that we love.”
As far as Roberts is concerned, she isn’t just back — she is back and better than ever. Considering all the smiles that accompany the mere mention of her, the Red Rocks agree.
Red Rocks on the air
No. 4 Utah (197.192) at No. 19 Arizona State (195.338)
- Saturday, 6:30 p.m. MST
- Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Arizona
- TV: Pac-12 Network
- Radio: None
- Online: pac-12.com