SALT LAKE CITY — There was a time not too long ago, when Sydney Soloski was a veritable unknown.
In fact, just over a year ago, she was nameless enough to be called, in print no less, Sydney Sloshi, an unproven and untested freshman on the Utah gymnastics team.
“My freshman year, before Red Rocks Preview, there was an article written and they spelled my name Sydney Sloshi,” Soloski said. “My last name was Sloshi instead of Soloski.”
That particular misspelling has turned out to be a pleasant one, as Soloski is now affectionately known team-wide as Sloshi.
“I don’t know what happened,” she said with a chuckle. “It evolved and everyone refers to me by that now.”
The fact remains: Prior to her freshman year at the U., Soloski was practically anonymous.
That lasted all of one meet.
Soloski filled in admirably on floor exercise for a dinged-up Kari Lee in Utah’s season-opener a year ago.
That debut routine earned a 9.875 and thrust Soloski squarely into the spotlight.
From there, the diminutive Canadian — Soloski is listed at 5’0”, but is actually 4’11”, if that — only improved.
By the end of last season, she had recorded a 9.900 or better on floor seven times, including a career-high of 9.925, which she set twice, once at home against Oregon State and again versus Georgia.
More than that, she excelled under the greatest of pressure.
At the NCAA semifinals last spring Soloski earned 9.9125 for her floor routine, a good enough score to earn her a second-team All-American designation.
“I think Sydney responds best when there is pressure to perform and that is something,” Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden said. “You have to like the game-time girls.”
All of her success, almost immediate at that, made her quiet and unassuming start to this season perplexing.
Through the first three meets of the year, Soloski, a expected stalwart in the floor lineup, recorded a 9.850, 9.825 and 9.875. Good enough scores, but a far cry from how she finished her freshman campaign.
As it turns out, there are many reasons behind Soloski’s slow start to the season.
For one, for as game-time ready as Soloski is, she hasn’t perfected preseason preparation.
“Game-time is definitely her best time,” said Marsden. “When meet season gets here, she really starts to kick it into gear. I think she responds best when she feels the pressure to perform. Of course, sometimes that is a little late. She might have needed the first three meets to get her training going, to get to where she is really full floor routine ready out on the competitive floor. Had she felt the pressure in October, she might have been more prepared.”
While that assessment may seem harsh, particularly in the world of college gymnastics where smiles and hugs are rampant, Soloski was in complete agreement.
“My preparation for my freshman year was better,” Soloski said. “I really had to fight for my lineup spot. It was a last second thing, I was just thrown in. This year (the coaches) knew I could handle the pressure, so I think my attention to detail wasn’t as high.”
She has also been undone by a nagging shoulder injury which, while not serious enough to keep her out of competition, set her training back and has limited her to roles on floor and beam.
“It is not all her fault,” Marsden said. “She has a shoulder that bothers her and we had to modify training in the early part of the year in hopes of having her available now.”
Even with the injury and less-than-stellar training, Soloski’s early season deductions haven’t been all that serious.
In fact, after receiving feedback from judges, she was able to fix her mistakes to the point where she earned a 9.925 against Arizona State and looked every part an All-American.
“I was super happy about my performance,” Soloski said. “You know when you are on the road you have to expect (lower scores), so it was super nice to get that big of a score. I feel like I really earned that score.”Comment on this story
The breakout routine has instilled hope as well, hope that Soloski is back to being an elite gymnast.
“My goal is 9.9s from here on out and hopefully increasing each meet,” Soloski said. “We’ll see where that takes me.”
“I’m hopeful,” Marsden added. “I think Sydney has that potential.”
Red Rocks on the air
No. 4 Utah (197.238) vs. No. 23 Arizona (195.275)
Friday, 7 p.m. MST
Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City