By Brittany Bowyer, GSN Contributing Writer
The University of Utah is known for its history of success in gymnastics.
The school often draws in some of the top gymnasts in the country. For Gilbert native and Higley alum MyKayla Skinner, that was a key factor in her decision to commit to Utah over other powerhouse programs.
“Just being able to come to Utah, I was so excited. I was hoping that I could help lead the team and try to win another national championship,” said Skinner, now a junior at Utah. “Just being here and being able to help out as much as I have has been incredible.”
Skinner trained at Desert Lights Gymnastics in Chandler, one of the premier clubs in the state. Her success as a collegiate gymnast is just part of the long list of accolades in her career.
Skinner has competed around the globe since a young age, participating in and winning a number of international titles. She was selected as a 2016 Rio Olympics alternate after placing 2nd on vault behind eventual gold medalist Simone Biles, and fourth overall at the Olympic Trials.
Lisa Spini, Skinner’s former coach at Desert Lights, has witnessed firsthand how hard she’s worked and all that she’s sacrificed on her journey.
“I’ve always enjoyed watching my gymnasts succeed in the NCAA. So watching MyKayla break all kinds of records is very exciting,” Spini said. “She will definitely go down as one of the top NCAA gymnasts ever.”
At Pac-12 Championships last month, Skinner nailed her floor routine and scored a perfect 10. It’s something she’s been working toward all season. But being able to accomplish it at the PAC-12 Championships made it that much sweeter.
“Anywhere to get a 10, I think getting it at Pac-12’s is definitely a moment that I’ll never forget,” Skinner said. “Just having the crowd there and all of our fans, and obviously the rivalry with UCLA, literally there is no feeling like it.”
Skinner is known for the level of difficulty in her routines when she takes the floor.
When her music begins and she starts to perform, she’s exciting to watch. Not only is it her explosive tumbling that captures everyone’s attention, it’s the way she is able to put on a show with her dance.
“We kind of just thought of some different ways that I could draw in the judges and make them feel more like a part of my routine and to just go out there and enjoy it, and have them feel like they’re enjoying it, as well,” Skinner said.
Skinner focused on her floor routine during the last few competitions of the season. She believes her constant preparation made a difference at the conference championship.
There was a moment of anticipation as she and her teammates waited for the judges to score her routine. But when the score was finally revealed, the Utah faithful in the arena erupted in excitement.
“I couldn’t thank our fans enough,” Skinner said. “For them to give me a standing ovation and having them cheer and be just excited with me by my side the whole time, I’m so glad that it finally happened.”
She claimed the floor title at the competition in a three-way tie with two athletes from UCLA. But she wasn’t done.
Skinner also competed on vault, one of the hardest events in gymnastics, let alone the NCAA. She used her power to pull off a near-flawless routine. When she went to stick her landing, she moved slightly. Skinner knew that kept her from a perfect score.
But she still had something to celebrate.
“Being able to compete a double full, I think it’s one of the best feelings in the world because I like doing big skills and not very many people in college get to do the big skills,” Skinner said.
Skinner scored a 9.95 to take home a share of the vault title. She was also in a four-way tie for second on bars.
She called it a “dream come true” to be able to hit the high scores and keep accomplishing goals she’s set for herself on the competition floor.
Utah came in second overall as a team with a score of 198.025. The team qualified for regionals in Baton Rouge, where they were able to secure a spot in the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships April 19 and 20 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Skinner believes her and the rest of the Utes are peaking at just the right time.
“This is the hardest part of season,” Skinner said. “This is where everything matters and everything counts.”
Despite representing Utah on the floor during competitions, Skinner never forgets where she came from. She attributes much of her success to her time growing up and training in Arizona.
“It’s been such an honor to accomplish so much in the past couple years that I have,” Skinner said. “I love it there, there’s where I grew up, that’s my home town.
“I’m just grateful that I can still represent it. That will stick with me forever.”