SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The University of Utah gymnastics team snapped out of a 2-meet losing streak in a big way on senior night.
MyKayla Skinner won the all-around, while MaKenna Merrell-Giles scored a perfect 10 on the floor, as the Utah gymnastics team put up a season-high score of 198.15 in an easy victory over Georgia on senior night at the Huntsman Center.
Skinner won the all-around with a score of 39.725, narrowly edging out Merrell-Giles, who scored her second perfect 10 of the season.
All five floor routines earned scores of 9.90 or better.
This was the first 198 in three years, since the 2015 NCAA runner-up Utes. Said Maddy Stover, one of Ute three seniors honored before the meet, “This team feels like the one we were on our freshman year. We have that kind of talent and team chemistry.”
The Utes certainly looked like an NCAA contender tonight with one huge routine after another followed by stuck landings. Vault, where landings were the biggest issue in Utah’s back-to-back losses at California and Michigan, did a complete turnaround.
“(First vaulter) Missy Reinstadtler set the tone for the night,” said co-head coach Tom Farden. “She’s been sticking that vault in practice and she let one fly tonight. I could tell from the demeanor when they (the Utes) walked in the arena that they were dialed in.”
Reinstadtler was one of many who “let one fly” in a meet where the Utes set season bests on bars (49.450), beam (49.525) and floor (49.775) after getting off to a 49.400 start on the vault—its best in five weeks.
The momentum just kept building after the first rotation with MaKenna Merrell-Giles and MyKayla Skinner—who went toe-to-toe all night—tying for first on bars with 9.925s. Merrell-Giles and Reinstadtler then scored 9.925s on the next event—the beam—only to see Skinner win in the end with a picture perfect-looking 9.95.
On floor, Tiffani Lewis saved the best routine of her career for her Huntsman hurrah, scoring a 9.975 from the first position to jumpstart a set that nearly matched the school record (49.800). Both judges would deliver a 10.0 four gymnasts later when Merrell-Giles aced her routine. It was the first 10.0 on floor for Merrell-Giles and the second of her career—both coming this season. Soon after the crowd sat back down from its standing ovation for Merrell-Giles, the fans jumped back on their feet when Skinner finished a spectacular routine. Their chants for another 10.0 were halfway satisfied, with Skinner scoring a 9.975 for the third time this season.
“This was all for the seniors,” said Merrell-Giles, who tied her career all-around high of 39.675 while finishing second to Skinner (39.725). “We were on such a high tonight. In the last couple of meets, we had started to try too hard. Tonight we didn’t get caught up on little mistakes and wanted to enjoy every routine.”
Added Skinner, who picked up her 19th career all-around victory to move into sole possession of second place on Utah’s career record charts, “We wanted to see where having fun takes us. Hopefully we can have fun the rest of the season.”
Utah never trailed in the meet to their southern rivals. Leading Utah to a 49.400-49.150 on the first rotation were Lewis with a season-high 9.90 on vault. Four other Utes scored a 9.875—in the case of Reinstadtler, a career high.
The Utes opened a .425 lead over the Gymdogs on the second rotation when Skinner and Merrell-Giles scored 9.925s (for Merrell-Giles a career high) to tie for first on bars. Kari Lee was close behind with a 9.90.
The meet turned into a rout on the third rotation. While Utah was producing its best beam set of the year, Georgia ran into trouble on floor and Utah’s lead ballooned by over a point (148.375-147.225). Skinner won the event with a season-high 9.95 followed closely by Merrell-Giles with a career-tying 9.925 and Reinstadtler with a career-high 9.90.
The Utes next compete at the Pac-12 Championships Saturday in Tucson.