With a score of 197.150, the No. 4 Utah Red Rocks gymnastics team won the Fayetteville Regional yesterday to advance to Nationals a record 42 straight times. Coming in second and joining Utah at the NCAA Championships was No. 9 Denver with a 197.050.
This was a close meet from start to finish. Utah started on the bars, where they got off to a decent start with a 49.275, led by a 9.900 from sophomore Kari Lee, who was only able to compete on bars due to a sprained ankle. This forced Shannon McNatt and Erika Muhaw into competition in beam and vault respectively.
"We were thankful Kari could go out and land that bar dismount on a sore ankle," said co-head coach Megan Marsden. "It catapulted us into beam and I thought it increased the confidence in the others—in particular Shannon (McNatt) and Erika (Muhaw), who probably were thinking, 'if Kari can do that, I can do it.'"
Utah moved to beam next, where McNatt closed out the event with a meet-high 9.900 in her first career routine to count. Utah would score a 49.175 on beam for a total score of 98.450 through two events. Utah was on bye next, and at the halfway mark of the meet, Utah trailed Denver by 0.125 and only led Auburn by 0.075, who started the meet with a 49.375 on the bars then a 49.000 on beam.
"We were so proud of Shannon," said junior Maddy Stover. "She has persevered for two years not getting to compete much and she never quit. When she stuck that dismount, we were almost brought to tears."
Utah would really get going on floor. MyKayla Skinner, the No. 1 gymnast in the NCAA on floor, would lead the way for Utah with a meet-high 9.950 on floor to anchor Utah’s 49.450 floor set. With Denver’s 49.225 on beam, Utah would lead Denver by 0.100 after both team’s had completed three events, while Auburn was on bye.
Utah would close out the meet on the fifth rotation on vault with a 49.250, led by a 9.900 from Skinner. This would give Utah a 197.150 for the meet. They were left to just watch the final rotation. To tie Utah, Denver would need a 49.350 on floor, and Auburn would need a 49.625 on vault (after posting a 49.150 on floor). Neither team would achieve those scores, preserving the win for the Red Rocks. Denver would post a 49.250 on floor to score a 197.050 for the meet. Utah and Denver would post the fourth and sixth highest scores respectively at the NCAA Regionals.
The NCAA Championships begin on Friday, April 14 in St. Louis, Mo. Utah will be competing against No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 5 UCLA, No. 8 Oregon State, No. 9 Denver, and No. 13 Washington in Semifinal I. The top three teams from the meet will advance to the Super Six on Saturday, April 15.