FORT WORTH (ABC4 Sports) – The season came to an end for the Utes gymnastics team.
Utah scored a 196.725—just its second sub-197 score of the season—to finish fourth behind UCLA (197.675), LSU (197.5125) and Michigan (197.200). UCLA and LSU moved out of the semifinal and into tomorrow’s NCAA Final.
“We are certainly very disappointed,” said co-head coach Tom Farden about Utah’s failure to advance to finals. “This wasn’t what we have been working toward all season. We had a team we thought could make finals, but today we were a fraction off in places and there was no room for mistakes in this semifinal field. We needed to get off to a great start since our two best events are floor and vault, but we weren’t at our very best. We did have a nice bar set, but couldn’t make up much ground. Finishing on beam is always hard and when you are a few tenths down, it adds even more pressure.”
Utah’s top individual performer was MyKayla Skinner, who placed in the top three of semifinal one on vault (9.925), bars (9.9125) and floor (9.9375), and took fourth in the all-around (39.550). It marked the first time of Skinner’s career that she failed to win an NCAA individual title, although she will likely add to her All-America count, which is already the best in school history with 22 awards. Utah’s only other top-four finisher among the afternoon contenders was MaKenna Merrell-Giles on vault (9.90).
Merrell-Giles, who scored a 9.875 on both bars and floor, fell off the beam in her final collegiate routine—a painful finish to an otherwise magnificent career. Fifth-year senior Kari Lee concluded her career on a better note in the same venue where she helped the Utes place second at the 2015 NCAA Championships as a freshman. Lee placed ninth in the all-around in semifinal one, scoring a 39.250. Macey Roberts performed her final two routines as a Ute with her best score a 9.8375 on floor. Utah’s other senior, Shannon McNatt, received recognition on the video board prior to the meet for winning an NCAA Elite 90 award, which is presented to the student-athlete with the best grade point average on a team competing at the site of the NCAA finals.
Utah actually led the meet for one rotation before slipping to fourth in round two. The Utes opened with a good, if not exceptional floor set, highlighted by Skinner’s impressive 9.9375 routine from the end of the lineup. The first rotation standings were Utah 49.3125, Michigan 49.3000, UCLA 49.2875 and LSU 49.1875.
Utah then moved to vault, where Merrell-Giles and Skinner scored a 9.90 and 9.925, respectively, in a 49.2875 set. The two rotation scores were UCLA 98.700, Michigan 98.6375, LSU 98.6250 and Utah 98.5375.
The Utes hung in gamely on bars, putting up their best score of the day—a 49.325. Skinner concluded the set with a 9.9125, which was preceded by a 9.875 by Merrell-Giles and a 9.8625 by Missy Reinstadtler. The solid set wasn’t enough to move the Utes out of fourth however. The three rotation scores were LSU 148.075, UCLA 148.0625, Michigan 148.0125 and Utah 147.8625.
Utah needed a huge day on beam to move out of fourth place, which didn’t happen. The fall by the steady senior Merrell-Giles, just her second all season, seemed to rattle Skinner a bit as the last competitor. While Skinner was never in danger of falling, she had a rare balance check coming out of a flight series that cost her a shot at the all-around title.
Utah was competing in a record 44th-consecutive national championship as the only program to qualify into all 38 NCAA Gymnastics Championships to date.