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The Best of Utah comes at perhaps the best time for the Red Rocks

Utah Utes Abby Paulson competes on floor during the Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quads at Maverik Center in West Valley on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. #1 Oklahoma, #2 Utah, #5 LSU, and #12 UCLA competed in the meet.
Utah Utes Abby Paulson competes on floor during the Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quads at Maverik Center in West Valley on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. #1 Oklahoma, #2 Utah, #5 LSU, and #12 UCLA competed in the meet. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

There is little time for rest for the University of Utah’s women’s gymnastics team, and the Red Rocks might actually prefer it that way.

Utah competed Saturday afternoon at the Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quad in West Valley City and will do so again Monday afternoon in another four-team meet held at the Maverik Center.

Saturday’s competition pitted Utah against elite programs in Oklahoma, LSU and UCLA, while Monday’s meet will see the renewal of the Best of Utah in which Utah, BYU, Utah State and Southern Utah compete for in-state supremacy.

The Red Rocks did not compete to their capabilities Saturday, finishing in fourth — last place — behind the Sooners, Tigers and Bruins.

Red Rocks on the air

No. 5 Utah, No. 25 Southern Utah, BYU and Utah State

Monday, 4 p.m. MST

Maverik Center, West Valley City

TV: None

Stream: Sporfie

Radio: ESPN 700

It was a performance defined by nerves and mistakes — particularly on balance beam and uneven bars — and not on the level of the Red Rocks’ season opening outing against Boise State.

With such a short turnaround between Saturday and Monday, though, there is little time for doom and gloom over the setback.

“I honestly like it better that way,” senior Abby Paulson said. “In this sense, we have another opportunity to show everyone what we’ve got. People might be doubting us right now, but it is on us to turn this around and switch our mindset.”

In years past, the Best of Utah has been a fun competition, but always a runaway Utah victory.

In the first iteration of the competition in 2020, Utah won by 1.425 points over second-place BYU.

In 2021 the margin of victory for the Red Rocks was only slightly less impressive at 1.2 points and in 2022 Utah bettered that margin of victory oh so marginally, topping second-place Utah State by 1.225 points.

Last season was the Red Rocks’ best showing yet in the meet, as the team recorded a 197.750, 1.575 points ahead of second-place Southern Utah.

This year, the Best of Utah has the potential to offer a little more for the Red Rocks, though, more than just affirming their standing as the best program in the state of Utah.

It is an opportunity to show the gymnastics world, and more importantly themselves, that Saturday’s performance was an outlier, a step in the process and not a season-defining performance.

It’ll be up to the Red Rocks to make that statement, though, said Utah head coach Carly Dockendorf.

“We get a day to get ourselves back in order and go again,” she said. “It is going to really be up to them to decide what kind of focus they bring for Monday, but hopefully they bring a little more confidence and trust.”

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The Best of Utah stands as a real opportunity for the other three participating teams, too.

BYU is fresh off a third-place finish in its session of the Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quad. The Cougars competed Saturday night against Cal, Michigan State and NC State and recorded a 196.100.

That score came on the heels of an opening weekend score of 195.900. Both scores have BYU showing much improvement on what was a rebuilding season in 2023.

Now in the Big 12 Conference, BYU will compete against elite teams such as Oklahoma and Denver, plus Iowa State and West Virginia, and the Red Rocks — similar to Cal and Michigan State — provide an early nonconference measuring stick ahead of conference competition.

Southern Utah, meanwhile, stands as one of the best non-Power conference programs in the country, though the T-Birds are in something of a rebuilding year themselves.

A strong performance at the Best of Utah would go a long way in proving that the rebuild will be short and sweet, not unlike their season-opening 196.025 earned at the Mean Girls Super 16 championship to open the season.

As for Utah State, the Aggies struggled mightily in their season opener and are now in Year 2 under head coach Kristin White.

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With the Mountain West Conference now sponsoring gymnastics, though, opportunity exists for the Aggies to take a step forward in their rebuild this season, and the Best of Utah offers a prime chance to start generating the kind of momentum needed to show that USU can and will compete with Boise State, San Jose State and Air Force.

Of the meet, SUU head coach Scotty Bauman said in a release, “The Best of Utah is a great opportunity for all of the Utah teams to showcase how strong gymnastics is in our state. These athletes have worked hard and are ready to shine against some of the best competition in the country. This is always one of the best meets of the year.”

And this year may be an equally important one for all involved, but Utah especially.