WESTWOOD, Calif. (ABC4 Sports) – The biggest meet of the Pac-12 regular season proved to be nothing short of a thriller on Sunday night in Pauley Pavilion where No. 3 Utah edged No. 3 UCLA on their home floor 198.075-198.025 in Pauley Pavilion. The season-high score for Utah was capped off by a new school record on beam that had stood since the 1995 season and the first perfect 10 on beam by a Ute since the 2008 season.
“The fast start on bars definitely helped our momentum tonight,” said head coach Tom Farden. “I felt that our team was very focused and we really appeared to be together as a team tonight. We didn’t let the big crowd or intensity of the competition change how we competed and that is certainly a positive sign for this young team. On floor we competed a little inward and weren’t as aggressive as we would have liked to have been. Our balance beam rotation was incredible. For our beam team to set the school record and be etched into a program filled with such great history is very special for these student-athletes.”
With the Ute lead at 148.300-148.225 through three rotations, Utah once again would need to be on their ‘A’ games on beam to close out the meet. The Red Rocks rose to the occasion and posted the highest beam score in the NCAA this season, rolling to a 49.775 to set a new school record and edge out the Bruins by 0.050 to win the top-three matchup in the hostile environment.
The Utes recorded four scores of 9.95 or higher on beam and were anchored by freshman Abby Paulson scoring the first 10.0 of the season for Utah and the first on beam since 2008. Adrienne Randall scored a 9.975, while Alexia Burch and Cristal Isa chipped in 9.950s for the Utes. Maile O’Keefe rounded out the scoring five with a 9.90 to contribute to the record rotation.
Utah impressed early and showed no signs of jitters in their biggest meet of the season this far. The Utes began the meet by posting five scores of 9.90 or better on bars to smash their previous season-high and score a 49.600. O’Keefe had her best routine of the season as Utah’s leadoff and finally got the stick she has been looking for on her dismount to solidify her career-high 9.925 routine.
Emilie LeBlanc posted a season-high and matched her career-high of 9.90, while Cristal Isa followed by also matching a career-mark of 9.925. After a solid routine from Paulson, Missy Reinstadtler added another 9.90. Kim Tessen anchored the set with a 9.95 to win her fourth bars title of the season.
Utah’s 49.600 put the Red Rocks ahead of UCLA’s 49.375 on vault. On vault, Burch and Tessen posted back-to-back 9.90s at the bottom of the lineup to highlight the rotation. Soloski kicked off vault with a 9.825, while Isa and Reinstadtler added 9.80s to give Utah a 49.225 vault score.
The Bruins cut the Ute lead to just 148.300-148.225 after the third rotation despite Utah scoring a season-high 49.475 on floor. Paulson opened the rotation with a 9.80 and Isa followed by scoring a 9.925. Randall registered another solid routine for Utah and put up a 9.90, but a fall in the No. 4 spot put Utah needing to hit the final two routines. O’Keefe picked things back up for Utah and scored a 9.90, while Soloski anchored the set with a 9.95 to ensure the Utes would not have to count a fall.
The Pac-12 rivals traded big scores on their final events, but Utah’s school-record beam performance would prove just enough to top UCLA’s final score, even with the Bruins posting a 49.800 floor score.
Tessen won her fourth bars title of the season with a 9.95, while Paulson earned a share of the beam title from her 10.0. The beam win is Paulson’s fourth beam title of the season.
No. 3 Utah will remain on the road to continue Pac-12 play against No. 13 Washington on Sunday, March 1.