Twelve members of the University of Utah’s celebrated gymnastics team—the Red Rocks—traveled to Incheon, South Korea this summer.
During the unforgettable week-long trip, they led classes with young gymnasts, showcased their skills to the University of Utah Asia Campus and the broader Incheon community, and gained invaluable international experience.
“The University of Utah Asia Campus has been so gorgeous. The architecture, the scenery–it’s just unbelievable,” said junior Kara Eaker, who holds the distinction of being one of only nine Red Rocks in history to score at least two Perfect 10s on beam in their career.
From touring the bustling capital city of Seoul to participating in traditional tea ceremonies, the athletes gained a greater appreciation for Korean culture. The athletes also offered mentorship to young, upcoming gymnasts through two masterclass sessions.
During their July 1 Showcase event at the Incheon Global Campus (home to the University of Utah Asia Campus), the team led an exhibition of gymnastics skills and performed to the K-Pop music of Korean idols such as BlackPink and BTS. The athletes kept the crowd of close to 1,000 roaring as they rotated through performances on the vault, floor, and parallel bars. Afterward, the athletes handed out U memorabilia to the eager audience.
“I thought the Showcase was so fun. I hope all of our new fans in Korea enjoyed it. It was nice to meet all the little kids and learn a few Korean phrases,” said senior and eight-time All-American gymnast Cristal Isa.
The Showcase performance marked the grand finale to a week of cultural exploration, teaching, and exhibition for the gymnasts. The event was attended by Gregory Hill, Chief Administrative Officer at the U Asia Campus, Randy McCrillis, Dean of Students at the U Asia Campus, Cheri Daily, Executive Director at the U’s Office for Global Engagement, Jin-Yong Kim, the Commissioner at Incheon Free Economic Zone Authority, and Byung-Yoon Yoo, Chief Executive Officer at Incheon Global Campus. Also in attendance was Korean women’s gymnastics legend Hong-Cheol Yeo and his daughter Seo-Jeong Yeo, Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist.
The trip marked the first international travel for a Utah Athletics program since the summer of 2017. The NCAA allows a coach to travel abroad once every four years, and coach Tom Farden was thrilled that the team chose South Korea.
“We were excited to be in Songdo, Incheon, home of the University of Utah Asia Campus,” said Farden, who coincidentally was born in Incheon, South Korea before being adopted by a family in Minnesota. “We are proud that this experience allowed our athletes to learn about Korean culture while showcasing their skills to the people of Korea.”
The University of Utah “Red Rocks” gymnastics team has won 10 national championships, including nine NCAA
championships, and holds the most All-American gymnast awards in the nation. They have qualified for 47 consecutive national championships since the team’s formation in 1976—the only team in the nation to qualify for every national championship. The team is known for drawing a large, energetic crowd, boasting the largest fan base of any collegiate women’s sport in the nation. Utah averaged an NCAA record 15,273 fans per meet during the 2020 season. The 2023 team includes three Olympic gymnasts, eight All-Americans, and two individual national champions. Utah Gymnastics has won 10 Pac-12 Championships, which includes three straight titles. No team in Pac-12 history has won three consecutive championships until the Red Rocks did so in 2023. The Utes are coming off a third-place finish in the nation for the third year in a row.
View the team’s travel diary for more photos and insights from their trip.