PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – MyKayla Skinner is off to another dominating start to the season for the Utah gymnastics team.
Skinner won the all-around title as the Utes made it 40 straight wins over rival BYU, 197.250-196.475 at the Marriott Center Friday night.
But it wasn’t as easy as in years past.
Although Utah never trailed, there was no room for error going into its final event after BYU nailed its beam set in the third rotation. If they were feeling any pressure, the six Ute beam workers didn’t show it, with all of them hitting their routines with ease. The best performance came freshman Adrienne Randall, whose 9.875 from the No. 5 position clinched the win even before MyKayla Skinner hopped on and hit her school-record 118th routine without a fall.
“We didn’t start the meet the way we wanted (on bars), but bounced back with an amazing vault, which gave us momentum heading into floor and beam,” said co-head coach Tom Farden. “I was pleased that we finished with a really good beam set under pressure on road in front of a big, loud crowd.”
Utah has now hit the 197 benchmark in its first two meets for the first time in school history. The Utes scored a 197.175 in last week’s home win over Penn State.
Skinner led the way by winning vault with a career-tying 9.975, bars (9.875), floor (9.95) and the all-around (39.600). She has eight wins through the first two meets and her 85 career wins is just two shy of the top five all-time at Utah. MaKenna Merrell-Giles also had a big night, placing second in the all-around (39.475) and scoring a 9.90 on vault and floor.
Things got off to a rocky start for Utah when Kim Tessen fell on her dismount as the first competitor. Up next was freshman Hunter Dula, who was added to the lineup during the touch warm ups in place of senior Kari Lee and was competing for the first time of her college career (she missed last week’s opener with a rib injury). The switch paid off as Dula’s 9.750 got the Utes back on track.
“Hunter did a great job going in at the last minute,” said Farden. “We said we were going to change lineups a lot this season and we did tonight. Every lineup had different gymnasts or a different order from a week ago. When the last four competitors stuck their (bar) landings, I knew we were going to fight to the finish.”
It started on the second rotation when the Utes lit it up the vault, led by Skinner’s 9.975 from the anchor spot. Macey Roberts (9.90) and Alexia Burch (9.875) both scored career highs and Merrell-Giles added a 9.90. The 49.500 set is Utah’s best score this year on any event. After two events, Utah led 98.650-98.125.
The Cougars positioned themselves for an upset on the third rotation when they nailed a 49.325 beam set, keeping the Utes from expanding their lead. Merrell-Giles and Skinner did their part on floor, scoring a 9.90 and 9.95, respectively from the back of the lineup, while Lee chipped in a 9.875 from the middle. After three rotations, Utah led by just 148.050-147.450.
The Utes finished with a flourish on the beam. “It was good for us (to be under pressure at the end),” said Roberts. “They brought their ‘A’ game and it pushed us to give it our all.
Of her clutch routine, Randall said, “During club, my beam coach always put me last so I was glad to be back in that spot. I feel comfortable and confident on beam,” she added.