WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The University of Utah gymnastics team appears to be peaking at the right time.
The Red Rocks jumped out to an early lead and did not look back as the No. 6-ranked Red Rocks finished at the top of the standings in the first semifinal of the Salt Lake City NCAA Regional Second Round. Utah topped the closest team by nearly a full point to kick off the 2021 NCAA run, scoring a 197.500 at the Maverik Center, its second best score of the season.
With the dominant win, Utah will advance to Saturday night’s NCAA Regional Final, along with second-place finishers No. 11-ranked Arizona State. The Sun Devils outlasted Southern Utah (195.975) and Boise State (195.825) after scoring a 196.600 to place second and secure a spot in tomorrow night’s competition.
“It was a good meet in terms of the results, coming in here and securing the win,” said head coach Tom Farden. “Obviously, that was important to us because it determines where you start tomorrow. The theme is to live to fight another day. One of the things we want to do is maintain this level and squeeze out a little more. The training plan that we put forward – this is what we prescribed and is what we wanted. We are pleased with that.”
Utah started on its best event – the balance beam – and after a 9.875 from leadoff Alexia Burch, Utah suffered an uncharacteristic fall from Lucy Stanhope Lucy Stanhope. Similar to an early fall at the Pac-12 Championships, Utah did not let the mishap rattle the rest of the lineup and exploded for a 49.550 after the final four gymnasts did not score below a 9.90.
Cristal Isa put up a 9.90 immediately after Stanhope’s mistake, while Abby Paulson followed with a 9.925 to keep the momentum going. Adrienne Randall posted Utah’s second 9.90 of the set before Maile O’Keefe brought the rotation to a close with a meet-high 9.95 on beam. The strong finish left Utah with a lead from the get-go.
Utah moved to floor and did enough to extend the lead even more to 0.8th of a point. Randall and Paulson started the set with back-to-back 9.85s, which was followed by Stanhope’s bounce-back routine where she scored a 9.875. Jaedyn Rucker stepped out of bounds on her first pass, but O’Keefe and Sydney Soloski=avoided counting her score after the duo closed the rotation with a pair of 9.90s.
The Utes vaulted consistent throughout the lineup and collected 9.80s from Rucker and Cammy Hall, a 9.825 from Isa in the leadoff, and 9.85s from O’Keefe and Burch. Utah’s highest score of the set came in the fourth spot from Stanhope, who posted a 9.875 to close out her night. Utah’s 49.2 on vault held the lead at 0.625th of a point headed into the final rotation.
The Red Rocks needed to hit on the uneven bars and did just that to hang on for the win and advance. Utah posted a season-high 49.375 on bars to close out the first semifinal. Utah began with a 9.85 from Paulson and Sabado, and continued building from there. Burch, LeBlanc and O’Keefe collected three-consecutive 9.875s, while Isa anchored with a 9.90 to lead the group.
Utah will compete for the program’s 45th-straight national championship appearance tomorrow night in the NCAA Regional Final at 7 p.m. MT at the Maverik Center. Utah will start on bars after finishing first in today’s afternoon session. The Utes will compete against No. 11 Arizona State and the top-two finishers of tonight’s meet featuring No. 3 LSU, No. 14 Kentucky, Utah State and Arizona.