WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Following a season-high performance, the Red Rocks advanced to its 45th consecutive national championship after winning the Salt Lake City NCAA Regional Final on Saturday night at the Maverik Center.
Utah posted a 197.925, they held on to a narrow lead for most of the meet and outlasted LSU (197.750), Arizona State (197.600) and Kentucky (197.600) for the win.
“From the first athlete that went on bars, we knew that they came here to compete,” said Utah head coach Tom Farden. “I know the respective staffs pretty well and we knew this would be the hardest regional meet in the country and that was probably, in recent memory, the hardest regional I’ve been in. This new format is extremely difficult. We planned for this, trained for this and as coaches, you are just pleased it worked out.”
Utah got the night started with a season-high 49.475 on the uneven bars to set the tone early, they tied LSU for the lead after the first rotation. Maile O’Keefe posted a 9.5, and Cristal Isa wrapped up the first rotation with a 9.90 for the Utes.
The Utes fed off the momentum on the bars as Utah’s beam team once again shined and totaled a 49.600 in the second rotation to pull ahead at the halfway point. Isa and O’Keefe joined Abby Paulson to lead the Red Rocks with 9.95’s on the beam.
Moving to the floor, Utah held on to a 0.125 lead over LSU, who was in second place. Floor proved no different than the first two events as the Utes started strong and built up through the entire lineup. Jaedyn Rucker put up a 9.925, and was followed by a 9.95 from O’Keefe and a 9.95 from Sydney Soloski. The Red Rocks posted a 49.625 as a team.
Utah held a .450 lead heading into the vault. Utah struggled early needing the end of their rotation to step up and that’s just what they did. Cammy Hall first scored a 9.825, she was followed by O’Keefe who put up a 9.85. Rucker posted a career high 9.95 when the team needed it most helping to hold onto their lead and ultimately keeping the Red Rocks on top and clinch a spot in Fort Worth.
Utah will compete at a record 45th-straight national championship and 39th-straight NCAA Championship (began in 1982) in two weeks at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. The two-day event will take place Friday and Saturday, Apr. 16-17.