SALT LAKE CITY — There are 14 gymnasts who make up the roster of Utah’s 2018-19 gymnastics team.
You know them as MyKayla Skinner, MaKenna Merrell-Giles, Kari Lee and Macey Roberts. There is also Sydney Soloski, Missy Reinstadtler, Shannon McNatt and Kim Tessen. And don’t forget Alexia Burch or Lauren Wong, not to mention the quartet of freshman in Adrienne Randall, Crystal Isa, Cammy Hall and, last but not least, Hunter Dula.
For Utah gymnastics fans, even fans of collegiate gymnastics on the whole, those names range from fairly to instantly recognizable.
Skinner is a household name, in part due to her status as an alternate on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team, but also thanks to her almost unbridled individual success at Utah.
Merrell-Giles may not have the same following nationally, but take in a meet at the Huntsman Center and the cheers for her are as loud as any.
Lee, Roberts, Soloski, Reinstadtler — no matter the Utah gymnast, their names hold weight.
Spend even the briefest of moments with the team, however, and you’ll quickly learn that those aren’t their names.
They are, of course, each gymnasts’ given names, save in the cases of Reinstadtler and Hall, whose actual first names are Melissa and Cameron.
Amongst themselves their given names are rarely if ever used, though — if they are it is by co-head coach Tom Farden, who utilizes the gymnasts' full names — first and middle — on occasion.
Nicknames or sobriquets rule the day at Utah, which is fitting considering how the nickname of Red Rocks, once completely non-existent, has all but superseded Utes when talking about Utah gymnastics.
The junior, well-known as MyKayla, also answers to Myk, Micki or Myki (spelling is up to the writer). Both of those nicknames have actually grown popular enough to become part of the lexicon surrounding her and one — Myk — takes the cake in her eyes.
“Myk is my favorite,” Skinner said. “That is what I went by in the Elite and it is what pretty much everyone calls me.”
The names don’t stop there.
There is also Mykskins, Skinny or Skinnier.
“I have a lot of weird nicknames,” she said with a laugh.
Lee even has a nickname she alone calls Skinner, Myk — A — la, with the A sounding like the one in Augustus, and the faster you say the name the better.
“I call her Mykala,” said Lee, “but she has a lot.”
Skinner arguably has the most, although Soloski gives her a run for her money.
The sophomore is known as Sloshi, Slosh, Slushi, Syd and Squid, to name a few.
Sloshi, Slosh and Slushi share their origins, when ahead of the Red Rocks preview her freshman season, a publication badly misspelled her name as Soloshi or Sloshi, depending on the gymnast you ask. The origin of the nickname Sloshi is up for debate as well, at least in the Red Rocks' eyes. Individual accounts blamed print media, TV media and even radio for the mistake. Soloski, for her part, believes print to be at fault.
Soloski takes to all her nicknames well.
“I just think it is because I can take all of them and think they are funny,” she said. “A lot of them don’t even go with my name.”
“It is just her personality,” added Roberts. “She is so upbeat and funny. When I think of a funny person they always have a nickname.”
Merrell-Giles has her share, such as the easily understood Kenna, along with MGMG, which are the initials of her full name, MaKenna Gayle Merrell-Giles.
She also has a near extinct one as well, given by gymnasts long since departed from the program.
“KenDawg,” Roberts said, laughing. “Only a few of us know it, but when I first got here I heard other people calling her that.”
“Yeah ... that one went away,” added Lee.
McNatt is known at times as McNutt, mostly by Farden.
Dula is called Baby Hunter, among other names, due to her age — at 17 she is the youngest gymnast on the team — and also due to her small stature, which at one point this season enabled her to hide in Burch’s luggage.
Randall is known as A, and also Randy, while Reinstadtler is often called Melissa, or, in the case of assistant coach Robert Ladanyi — who simply cannot pronounce her last name — Rainstatler.
Burch is Lexi or Lex and Isa, Cris.
The freshmen as a whole have earned the moniker "The Muppets," because “we are very dysfunctional, but we are also really, really fun,” said Hall.
In unrelated news, Hall and Isa as a pair are known as Dumb and Dumber, a title bestowed upon them by Soloski.
“We always stumble all over the place,” Isa said. “We have our moments.”
Hall, who has been unable to compete this season due to a torn Achilles, might have the best nicknames of all.
She is called both Mike Tyson and Cammy van Gogh, thanks to an incident where she ran into a wall, after which half of her ear was hanging by a thread.
“It was a week or so before our Thanksgiving intrasquad meet,” she said. “My ear was just kind of hanging off.”1 comment on this story
Many of the nicknames stem from an attempt at brevity, while others, obviously come from the close familial-like relationships shared by the Red Rocks.
Similar to that sobriquet which has long since surpassed Utes in the eyes of many, so have the Red Rocks’ nicknames surpassed their own names in their own eyes.
Whatever the name, they are Utah gymnastics and after Merrell-Giles, Lee, Roberts and McNatt move on, the incoming freshmen, Maile O'Keefe, Abby Paulson, Jillian Hoffman and Jaedyn Rucker, will most assuredly get nicknames of their own.