On a night designated as a blackout, the No. 4-ranked Utah gymnastics team lit up the Jon M. Huntsman Center, beating No. 8 UCLA by two full points, 196.725-194.725. The Red Rocks improve to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the Pac-12. UCLA suffered its first Pac-12 loss and fell to 2-1 overall and 2-1 in conference.
It was the fifth Utah win in the last six meetings between the two national powers and the 14,873 fans in the Huntsman Center relaxed and cheered routines from both teams after Utah opened up a huge first-rotation lead. While Utah was rolling to its best vault score of the season (49.450), UCLA suffered through a miserable 48.100 start on the bars when two of its first three competitors fell.
"Two years ago (at UCLA), we missed four of our six bar routines," said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden. "These have been the two best teams in the Pac-12 for a long time. They are going to be a very good team by the end of the season. It's very exciting for us to win that meet any time, any way!"
The way Utah did it was especially impressive given the Utes had to do some lineup shuffling both before and during the meet. Freshman three-event star Kari Lee was limited to one event (beam, where she scored a 9.90) due to two sore Achilles. All-arounder Baely Rowe was ill and was pulled from the floor lineup after falling off her specialty, the balance beam.
Georgia Dabritz picked up two wins to lead the Utes, capturing vault (9.95) and floor (9.925), while finishing second in the all-around (39.575) to UCLA's Samantha Peszek (39.625). The two were ranked one-two in the all-around entering the meet. Utah coaches filed a protest during the meet regarding Dabritz bars routine, which the Red Rocks' staff (and seemingly everyone in attendance) felt deserved a better score than 9.875. One judge scored her routine 9.80, while the other judge scored it 9.95. A higher score from the second judge could have given Dabritz the all-around title. The protest was denied, and the bafflingly low score was upheld.
Corrie Lothrop earned Utah's other victory, tying for first on bars with a 9.90. Lothrop gave Utah a boost on the beam as well, scoring a 9.825 after Rowe's fall and preventing the Utes from counting a fall and letting the Bruins back in. Utah's best beam scores, however, came from a pair of freshmen. Lee (9.90) and Maddy Stover (9.85) both scored season highs and helped the Utes to an insurmountable 147.725-146.625 lead heading into the final rotation.
"We shouldn't be counting falls," shrugged Marsden when asked about Utah hitting 23-of-24 routines in all three meets this season. "Now that we have the balance beam (issues) of the last three seasons resolved, we shouldn't be counting falls. Now we need to really do better on our landings."
Utah faces its first Pac-12 road test of the season next Saturday, taking on No. 22 Arizona at 4 p.m. MT in the McKale Center.