SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utes gymnastics team saved its best for its last home meet of the season.
The Red Rocks put up a season-high 197.975 in a victory over #9 Michigan at the Huntsman Center Saturday on senior day.
MyKayla Skinner won the all-around with a spectacular 9.975 routine in the floor exercise to win the event. Skinner also tied for the top score on the vault and bars.
The Utes, who improved to 10-2 on the season with their victory over the Big Ten regular season champs, will have a bye next week before closing the regular season at Georgia on Mar. 16.
Seniors MaKenna Merrell-Giles, Kari Lee and Macey Roberts made their Huntsman Center finale one to remember, all receiving career highs in the win. Senior Shannon McNatt competed in exhibition on the balance beam.
“As soon as Kari came out of the gates and dropped that (9.925) vault, I knew it would be a good day,” said co-head coach Tom Farden. “That’s a heck of a Michigan team we beat. Our seniors did a great job of holding off their emotions until the end.”
Although the No. 5 Utes led from start to finish, they couldn’t shake the No. 9 Wolverines until the final event. Up just three tenths of a point entering the last rotation, Utah went wild on floor, scoring a season-high 49.675—its best score of the season on any event.
The all-around race also went down to the wire. After three rotations, Merrell-Giles, MyKayla Skinner and Michigan’s Olivia Karas were tied for the all-around lead with 29.725 scores and Lee was just a tenth of a point off the pace.
A 9.975 on floor leapfrogged Skinner into first place with a 39.700 score. Merrell-Giles and Karas tied for second with 39.650s, while Lee was third with a career-high 39.550. Merrell-Giles (9.925 on bars) and Roberts (9.925 on floor) earned the best score of their careers on those events, while Lee tied her best career floor score (9.925)
Skinner won or tied for three titles, pushing her over 100 victories in her career. She now has 102 wins in three seasons to rank third in school history behind Ashley Postell (120 from 2005-08) and Theresa Kulikowski (112 from 1999-2003).
In addition to her all-around victory, Skinner tied for first on bars with Merrell-Giles and Missy Reinstadtler, all with a 9.925, and on vault with Merrell-Giles (9.95).
The emotional pre-meet senor introductions proved a great jumping off point for the seniors on the first event. Lee scored a season-high 9.925 as the leadoff, Roberts followed with a 9.875 and Merrell-Giles tied her season high with a 9.95. Skinner also scored a 9.95 and Utah tied its best vault score of the season with a 49.500 to take an early lead over the Wolverines (49.200 on bars).
On bars, three straight 9.925s by Merrell-Giles, Reinstadtler and Skinner powered Utah to a 49.450—its best since bar score since Jan. 26 and second best of the season. With freshman Hunter Dula out with the flu, Utah opted to compete just five gymnasts. That was enough to give the Utes a 98.950-98.525 advantage over the Wolverines at the half.
Michigan cut Utah’s lead to just three tenths of a point (148.300-148.000) in round three, despite the Utes hitting six of six beam routines for the second week in a row. Lee and Alexia Burch scored 9.90s from the first two positions, but scores were harder to come by as the lineup went on.
The meet, very much up for grabs heading into the final rotation, stayed close with Michigan producing three 9.925s on the beam. But the Utes were even hotter on floor. Roberts and Lee kicked off the set with back-to-back 9.925s and Utah put the meet out of reach at the end of the set with 9.925s from Sydney Soloski and Merrell-Giles and a perfect-looking 9.975 from Skinner.
The crowd of 14,343 in the Huntsman Center gave Utah its ninth all-women’s sports attendance title. Utah averaged 14,842 fans a meet this season, the fifth best in school history.