FORT WORTH, Tex. (ABC4 Sports) – Despite a valiant effort, the Utah gymnastics national championship drought continues.
All-around national champion Maile O’Keefe scored a perfect 10 on the beam, but the Red Rocks (197.9375) finished in third place behind champion Oklahoma (198.3875) and Florida (198.2375) at the NCAA championships in Fort Worth Saturday afternoon.
This is Oklahoma’s sixth national championship in the last nine years. Utah is still looking for its first national title since 1995.
O’Keefe extended her own school record with her 10th perfect 10 of her career on the beam as the Utes tried to make up .513 going into the final rotation.
Coming off its best postseason score in school history in the semifinals on Thursday, Utah drew the same rotation order, beginning on floor. Abby Brenner and Jaylene Gilstrap rattled off 9.875s to start the competition, and Abby Pauslon recorded a 9.90 in the third spot. Makenna Smith continued the momentum with a 9.925 before Utah closed out the lineup with consecutive 9.90s from Jaedyn Rucker and O’Keefe. Utah’s solid effort on floor earned a 49.500, which sat in third place behind Oklahoma’s 49.5625 (vault) and Florida’s 49.525 (beam).
On vault, Utah struggled to find its landings and led to just a 49.150. O’Keefe kicked off the rotation with a 9.7375, but Brenner looked to change momentum after scoring a 9.90 on her last career vault. Jillian Hoffman followed with a 9.7625, and the Utes collected consecutive 9.8375s from Smith and Rucker. Rounding out the rotation, Gilstrap scored a 9.8125 to drop O’Keefe’s score.
The Utes opened the uneven bars rotation with a 9.85 from Amelie Morgan and a 9.875 from Brenner. The momentum continued building with a huge performance from Sage Thompson, who scored a 9.9375, and O’Keefe followed with a 9.925. Cristal Isa began her night with a 9.875 on bars, while the lineup was anchored with a 9.9375 from Grace McCallum.
Although recording a strong effort on bars, Utah’s 49.550 maintained paced with Oklahoma and Florida, forcing the Utes to have a miraculous comeback in the final rotation after sitting behind the Sooners by 0.5125.
Utah couldn’t have asked for a better start after receiving a 9.9125 from Morgan in the leadoff on beam, which was followed by a massive 9.9625 from Paulson. The beam team was in the zone per usual and couldn’t be stopped, seeing Kara Eaker add a 9.9125 and Isa wrap up her Ute career with a 9.95. O’Keefe was perfect on beam as she was for most of the season, scoring her sixth 10.0 of the season on beam and second in a row at the NCAA Championship. Rounding out the lineup, McCallum closed out the day with a 9.8875.
Utah’s 49.7375, the highest beam score at the NCAA Championships in program history, pushed the team score to a 197.9375, which is the team’s second best score in an NCAA Final in program history. The Utes finished third in the nation for the third year in a row, and walk away with another NCAA Regional title, Pac-12 Championship title, and Pac-12 Regular Season title.