LOS ANGELES (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah gymnastics team may just be peaking at the right time.
Behind Perfect 10s from Maile O’Keefe on beam and Jaedyn Rucker on vault, the Red rocks advanced to the NCAA Regional Final after winning its session of the NCAA Regional Second Round with a 198.125 at Pauley Pavilion.
The Red Rocks led from start to finish, highlighted by season highs on vault and bars as Utah finished with a score of 198.125 to advance to Saturday’s final along with Washington. The Huskies (196.775) edged out Southern Utah (196.600) and #12 Auburn (195.900).
Utah and Washington will square off with UCLA and Missouri in the regional finals Sunday at 6:00 p.m. The top two teams move on to the NCAA Nationals in two weeks.
O’Keefe recorded her fourth 10.0 of the season on beam, improving her school record for most perfect scores on beam in a single season with eight. Later on, Rucker recorded the second perfect score of her career after scoring a 10.0 on vault to lead the rotation.
Utah opened the regional competition on beam and faced adversity early on. Amelie Morgan began the set with a 9.85, while Abby Paulson scored the first 9.90 of the competition. Shortly after, Kara Eaker came off the beam on her mount and the pressure quickly rose for the remaining three gymnasts.
Cristal Isa put the team back on track with a much-needed 9.925. O’Keefe handled the pressure perfectly after she went on to record her fourth Perfect 10 of the season on beam. Needing one more hit routine to drop Eaker’s score, Jaylene Gilstrap delivered and added a 9.825 to close out the first rotation.
Utah led the four teams with a 49.500, while Auburn sat in second place with a 49.375. Abby Brenner opened the floor lineup with a 9.775 before Gilstrap and Paulson began to build momentum. Gilstrap posted a 9.90 and Paulson scored a 9.925 to round out a solid competition for her. Makenna Smith had a great routine going until stepping out on the last pass, causing her score to drop to a 9.750. Rucker posted a 9.90 in the fifth spot and O’Keefe followed with a 9.875 to give the Red Rocks a 49.375 on floor.
Leading by three tenths over Auburn, which sat in second place, the Utes kicked off vault with a 9.825 from O’Keefe. The lineup picked up from there and never looked back as Brenner rattled off a 9.95 in the second spot and Jillian Hoffman returned to the lineup with a 9.90. Smith posted a 9.875, while it was Rucker that stole the show with the second Perfect 10 of the competition for the Utes. Continuing the momentum, Gilstrap scored a career high 9.90 to cap off a season-high 49.625 vault rotation.
With nearly a full point lead over the current second place team, Utah rotated to bars for the final event of the day. Utah couldn’t have asked for a better start, receiving 9.925s from Morgan and Smith in the first two routines. Brenner followed with a 9.875, while Sage Thompson glided through a 9.95 performance. O’Keefe rounded out her night in the all-around with a 9.85 on bars before Isa anchored the lineup with another 9.95.
Utah’s season-high 49.625 on bars pushed its final score to a 198.125 to finish first in the regional second round and advance to the final on Saturday.