The Utah Red Rocks ended their 2017 season with a fifth place finish at the NCAA Championship on Friday. Oklahoma paced everyone with a Super Six record 198.3875 to claim their third national championship in four years. LSU came in second with 197.7375. Following Oklahoma and LSU were Florida (197.700), UCLA (197.2625), Utah (196.5875), and Alabama 196.000.
“Our gymnasts competed their hearts out tonight. We are so proud of our fifth-place finish considering everything we’ve dealt with this year,” said co-head coach Tom Farden, referring injuries to three significant contributors. “It was a great learning experience for us, given our youth, and it was great to be back in the Super Six after a year away.”
The Red Rocks started the meet on floor. What is usually their strongest event, the Red Rocks struggled with both junior Tiffani Lewis and sophomore MaKenna Merrell stepping out of bounds. The Red Rocks, who were led by a 9.925 from freshman MyKayla Skinner, only scored a 49.0625.
“We came out with too much adrenaline on floor,” said Farden. “After how well we did last night in the semis yesterday, it took a little wind out of our sails, but we went on to have a pretty good vault and our bar set was great.”
For the second-straight meet, the Red Rocks would get the same score on their first two events, also posting a 49.0625 on vault. Skinner again led the Red Rocks with a 9.8875. Utah would move to a bye for the third rotation. At the halfway mark of the meet, the standings were as follows: Oklahoma 99.2875, Florida 98.800, LSU 98.625, UCLA 98.4375, Utah 98.125, and Alabama 97.5125.
Utah would move onto bars, their best scoring event of the night with a 49.3125. Utah’s lone senior, Baely Rowe, in her final meet of her career led Utah with a 9.9000 on bars.
Utah capped their night in the fifth rotation on the beam. Rowe suffered a rare fall on the event, the only fall of the meet for Utah. Skinner led the Red Rocks with a 9.8875.
“Baely has been an exceptional ‘beamer’ for us her entire career and has been a great team leader for us in her role as a captain,” said co-head coach Megan Marsden. “Baely knows that fall does not define her career and what she has meant to our success.” Added Marsden, “It gave (sophomore) Shannon McNatt a chance to succeed under pressure, which she had not faced before.”
Skinner posted a 39.550, the best score by a Pac-12 gymnast, in the all-around. She competed in the all-around in every meet and went 56-for-56 in hit routines. She got 43 individual event wins and 12 wins in the all-around (the most in school history). She was also the NCAA co-champion on floor.
“MyKayla has passed the point of unbelievable,” said Farden. “Even on the biggest stage, she never showed signs of pressure.”
The meet score of 196.5875 was Utah’s third lowest of the season. They did however accomplish their goals of winning the Pac-12 and returning to the Super Six.