Red Rocks advance to Nationals for 43rd straight year

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The streak continues for the Red Rocks.

The Utah gymnastics team put up a score of 197.475 to win the NCAA Regionals and advances to to the Nationals for the 43rd consecutive year.

Cal also moves on to the NCAA Nationals in St. Louis on April 20th, finishing second with a score of 196.725.

While the Utes posted the highest score on every apparatus, there was plenty of suspense at the end. Utah entered its final competitive rotation with less than a half-tenth lead over Cal, while Auburn was also within striking distance should the Utes make mistakes. 

That’s exactly what happened in the middle of the beam lineup. Bobbles followed by a fall from the No. 3 and 4 positions caused Utah’s lead to vanish and silenced the “capacity” crowd of 8,403 (the upper deck of the Huntsman Center was curtained off).

The quiet didn’t last for long. Pandemonium broke loose when Missy Reinstadtler coolly performed the best routine of her young career, tying for first place with a career-high 9.925. All that remained for Utah to clinch the win was MyKayla Skinner, who came through in the clutch as she has so many times—scoring a 9.90 and running her career string of routines without a fall to a school-record 102 straight (102-of-102). 

After its fast start on beam (Maddy Stover scored a season-high 9.875 as Utah’s first up on beam, followed by a 9.90 from MaKenna Merrell-Giles) and the strong finish, Utah moved out of reach of the competition. The Utes would finish the meet on a bye while Cal and Auburn chased the silver.

Skinner won the all-around with a 39.650 and tied for first on bars (9.90) and floor (9.95). Joining her on the victory stand were Reinstadtler on beam (9.925) and Merrell-Giles on floor (9.95). Skinner remains unbeaten in regional competition in the all-around and on floor—having won both titles last year as well—and is a five-time regional champ in her first two seasons. Reinstadtler and Merrell-Giles are both first-time regional individual champions.

Utah came out smoking at the start of the meet, ripping off five straight 9.90 or better scores en route to a 49.600 on floor. Kari Lee tied her season high with a 9.90 as the second competitor, a score that was matched by Reinstadtler and Sydney Solosky. Merrell-Giles and Skinner put an exclamation point on the set with back-to-back 9.95s.

“We got off to just an incredible start,” said co-head coach Tom Farden. “The way our gymnasts controlled their aggression on the leg events was amazing.”

The big floor score gave the Utes a lead they would never relinquish. The standings after one full rotation were Utah 49.600, Auburn 49.325, Cal 49.125, BYU 49.075, SUU 48.250 and Stanford 48.050.

Utah stayed aggressive on vault, while sticking most of its routines, including a Yurchenko one-and-a-half by Kim Tessen and a twisting double full by Skinner—that both received a 9.90. They led the Utes to a 49.350 on the event and a 98.950 two-event total. Utah headed into its first bye of the day with bars and beam lying in wait.

When the Utes came out of the bye room, every team had completed two rotations and the midpoint scores were Utah 98.950, California 98.525, Auburn 98.350, BYU 98.275, SUU 97.275 and Stanford 97.175.

The Utes cooled off a bit on the “intricate” events of bars and beam, although they had meet highs on both events. Only Tiffani Lewis (9.875), Merrell-Giles (9.85) and Skinner (9.90) stuck their bar dismounts without a hop, allowing Cal to move to within 0.450 of a point. 

“I felt we were guiding our gymnastics on bars,” said Farden. “We didn’t really use our swing to set up sticks on landings.”

After three full rotations, the team standings were Utah (148.150), Cal (147.700), Auburn (147.425), BYU (147.350), Stanford (146.625) and Southern Utah (145.600).

Beam started well with Stover (9.875) and Merrell-Giles (9.90) setting the stage, but Soloski (9.725) wobbled twice and Kari Lee fell, putting the pressure on Reinstadtler and Skinner. They refused to be rattled, scoring a 9.925 and a 9.90 and sending Utah to the bye room with the win in hand.

“Missy’s beam routine was unbelievably clutch after that rare fall from Kari,” said Farden. “And MyKayla had ice in her veins all night long. She was as spectacular as usual.”

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