Jaedyn Rucker’s vault in the the Salt Lake City Regional final did more than send Utah to nationals

Utah’s Jaedyn Rucker competes on the floor during the Pac-12 gymnastics championships in West Valley City on Saturday, March 20, 2021.

Utah’s Jaedyn Rucker competes on the floor during the Pac-12 gymnastics championships in West Valley City on Saturday, March 20, 2021. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Rucker’s stuck vault was the culmination of years of hard work, after a pair of knee surgery’s threatened to upend her gymnastics career.

It was the final rotation of the Salt Lake City Regional final and Utah was reeling.

Up to that point in the competition, the Red Rocks had dominated inside the Maverik Center, building what appeared to be an insurmountable lead over LSU, ASU and Kentucky, but back-to-back-to-back subpar vaults had left Utah in danger of not qualifying for nationals.

That was where Jaedyn Rucker came in. With the pressure mounting, Rucker nailed her vault, with a stuck landing and everything, earning a career-high 9.950.

Annie Barker, Deseret News
Utah Utes gymnast Jaedyn Rucker and her team react after her vault during the NCAA regional final round at the Maverik Center on Saturday, April 3, 2021. The Utes are moving on to the next round.

The reaction was immediate. Her teammates rushed out of Utah’s corral to celebrate, leaping in the air and sprinting down the runway, before hugs and high-fives were handed out to everyone and anyone who stood within an arm’s length.

Some of that reaction was because Rucker had staunched the bleeding and Utah was headed to nationals for a 45th straight time. Not all of it, though, not even most of it.

The celebration and excitement that followed Rucker’s vault had everything to do with her and her comeback.

‘I don’t know if you are going to come back from this’

A week before the start of her senior season of high school back in February 2019, Rucker tore her ACL.

It was the first major injury of her gymnastics career, and a devastating one given she had signed with Utah in November 2018 and was hoping to make a smooth transition from club gymnastics to college gymnastics.

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“The timing was not good,” Rucker said.

She had surgery to repair her ACL in February, too, wasting little time in an effort to be available to compete for Utah as soon as possible. The typical recovery time from an ACL surgery is about six to eight months, so in a perfect world Rucker would have been 100% recovered, physically at least, by October 2019 at the latest, a couple months before the start of the 2019-20 season.

“Obviously we are incredibly proud of (Jaedyn) and her sheer determination to get to this point. She is critical. She has been a key component and is someone who at her optimal level, has the stripes to compete at the back end of the lineup on an elite team. For her to come back and be in the position she is in, to be the contributor she is, it is what we envisioned.” — Utah coach Tom Farden

Things did not go as planned, however. Rehab did not produce the desired result and Rucker …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

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