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Deseret News
University of Utah junior Kim Tessen prepares to compete in the vault during the Pac-12 gymnastics championship at the Maverick Center in West Valley City on Saturday, March 23, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — Kim Tessen has a special spring.


The junior has a vault spring just her own — no other Red Rock gets one — replete with a pink name tag.

At home meets this season, team manager Elizabeth Berndt could be seen taking the spring out of the springboard after Tessen vaults, both in warmups and during competition, and then reinserting it into the board when it was Tessen’s turn to go again.

The spring, as it turns out, is not some sort of athlete superstition.

Instead, it was a specific adjustment made by co-head coach Tom Farden in an attempt to help Tessen on her vaults.

Prior to this season, Farden noticed that Tessen, who was making her way back from shoulder surgery, not to mention a bout with mono, was struggling to get any sort of compression on the springboard, something that is vital to both the height and distance of a vault.

" It has definitely made a difference, a noticeable one. I get more pop off the springboard. "
Utah junior Kim Tessen

“When I started vaulting again I had a little bit of a harder time getting back,” Tessen said. “Tom was observing on vault one day, and he thought the board looked too hard for me, I wasn’t getting enough punch off of it.”

To fix that, Farden conjured up a new middle spring for Tessen to use, one that was almost an inch shorter than those used by the rest of the team.

As trivial as it may seem, the adjustment has had great effect.

“It works,” Tessen said, “especially considering I am one of the smallest people on the team. It has definitely made a difference, a noticeable one. I get more pop off the springboard.”

NO HALF MEASURES: Another interesting bit of equipment usage comes courtesy of MaKenna Merrell-Giles.

Utah's Makenna Merrell-Giles competes on the beam during a meet against Arizona at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019.

For the past month, if not longer, the senior has had the oddest of bumps on the top of her foot, close to the ankle and underneath her tape.

As it turns out that bump is half of a tennis ball, which is used as a preventative measure against an ankle injury.

More specifically, it is used to prevent an existing ankle injury from worsening.

ACCIDENTS HAPPEN: There isn’t much in the way of preventative measures when it comes to sickness among the Red Rocks.

As such there was really nothing to be done when MyKayla Skinner fell ill in the buildup to the NCAA regionals competition.

Steve Griffin
The University of Utah's Mykayla Skinner arches her back after nailing her dismount on the bars during the Red Rocks' meet against the University of California at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019.
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Her sickness affected her throughout the two-day competition — “It was hard,” she said, with an emphasis on hard — but Skinner doesn’t attribute her shocking fall on uneven bars, during the second day of competition, in any way to that.

The fall was simply an accident.

“Things come up and things happen. I had an accident and accidents happen,” she said.

Interestingly enough, Skinner still isn’t exactly sure how it happened, but she is past it.

“I felt like I was perfectly fine as I was swinging on the bar,” she said with a laugh.