Well, 2015 was not the year for the Red Rocks to bring home their 11th national championship as they finished second at nationals to the Florida Gators. The Red Rocks did all they could though, posting their highest score ever the NCAA Championships with a 197.800. Florida won with a 197.850. The final team standings were Florida 197.850, Utah 197.800, Oklahoma 197.525, Alabama 197.275, Stanford 197.250 and Auburn 195.625.
The meet came down to the wire. Georgia Dabritz's 9.975 vault on Utah's final routine of the Super Six, pushed the Red Rocks into the lead with one Gator bar routine remaining. Freshman Alex McMurty needed a 9.0 on her bar routine to tie the meet; however, she scored 9.95, which was just enough for Florida to slide past Utah for its third straight national title.
"I am so proud of our kids for fighting back and nailing those last three routines to make it so that Florida had to hit big on its final routine," said Utah coach Greg Marsden, referring to the 9.925s by Kari Lee and Kailah Delaney that led up to Dabritz's 9.975.
When asked how hard it was to come so close to victory, Marsden said, "What's not hard to take is I couldn't ask more from this group of kids. They couldn't have given anymore. If you could have said at anytime this year--especially after we lost Tory Wilson to injury--that Utah would take Florida or even Oklahoma down to the final routine and finish .05 behind, no one would have believed it. The only thing that could have made it better was one more tenth of a point."
After Utah's disaster at the Berkeley Regional, few would have expected such a strong performance at nationals. The Red Rocks set a new high score in the semifinals with a 197.475 then broke it in the Super Six with their 197.800. The Red Rocks, who dedicated the postseason to Wilson (their top-ranked all-arounder before her injury), made good on their promise to her to bounce back at nationals. Freshman Tiffani Lewis had her best meet of the season in place of Wilson on three events, scoring career-highs on bars (9.90), floor (9.875) and vault (9.875). Filling in for Wilson on beam was Delaney, who scored a 9.85.
But no one shined brighter than Dabritz, whose 39.70 all-around score was the best of any of the gymnasts competing in the Super Six. On Utah's very first event, Dabritz made NCAA history by becoming the first gymnast ever to score a 10.0 on bars on both days of the NCAA Championships' team competition. She is the only gymnast ever to score a 10.0 on bars in the preliminaries and just the third to score a 10.0 in the Super Six, joining Courtney Kupets (2009) and Lori Strong (1993), both of Georgia. Just two other gymnasts have scored back-to-back 10.0s on an event at the NCAA Championships. Both were from Georgia; Leah Brown accomplished the feat on vault in 1996 and Hope Spivey on floor in 1993.Utah's entire bar team set the tone for the meet. After starting the meet on a bye, Utah came out firing on bars. Its last five scores included a 9.90 by Lewis, 9.85 by Baely Rowe, 9.90 by Kassandra Lopez, 9.925 by Corrie Lothrop and Dabritz's 10.0.
Utah's 49.575 team score, which would tie with Stanford for the best bar set of the night, gave the Red Rocks the early lead. After all six teams had one rotation under their belt, it was Utah 49.575, Alabama 49.425, Florida 49.300, Auburn 49.250, Oklahoma 49.175 and Stanford 48.875.
Off Utah went to beam, where Lee's 9.875 led a 49.250 effort. Florida assumed its first lead of the night in that round, taking a .125 edge over Utah (98.950-98.825). Next in line at the midway point was Alabama (98.700), followed by Oklahoma (98.650), Stanford (98.125) and Auburn (97.675).
After taking its final bye, Utah returned on floor and turned the meet into a two-horse race by scoring a 49.425. In her final college routine, Becky Tutka punctuated the set with a 9.925, tying her season best. Dabritz set her up with a 9.90 from the No. 5 position, while Lewis and Lee both turned in 9.875s earlier in the lineup.
Heading into the final rotation, Utah trailed Florida by one and a half tenths, 148.400-148.250. Battling for third place were Oklahoma at 147.950 and Alabama at 147.900. Stanford and Auburn finished the meet on byes.
After Utah's oh-so-close performance, Dabritz said, "One of our biggest goals this year was to not feel like we did last year (when Utah didn't make the Super Six). We accomplished that."
She'll have the opportunity to accomplish more tomorrow when she will compete for individual event titles on bars and floor. Lee will join her in the floor competition and will also compete on vault.
The Red Rocks will fly out immediately after the meet and are scheduled to land in Salt Lake City at 9:05 p.m. on Sunday.