The Utah Gymnastics team picked up their best win of the season thus far and topped Washington 197.700-196.250 during a Saturday matinee inside the Huntsman Center.
Utah, now 6-1 on the season and 3-1 in the Pac - 12, were lead by MaKenna Merrell-Giles, MyKayla Skinner and Kari Lee in front of a sellout crowd of15,558.
Right out of the gates Merrell-Giles nailed a perfect 10.0 vault to lead Utah to its best score of the year on any apparatus—a 49.625. She was just shy of picking up another perfect score at the end of the meet when she received a 9.975 on floor to highlight a season-high 49.600 team floor score.
Co-head coach Tom Farden said Merrell-Giles is having a great season and talked about her being in a “different space” this year.
“Since the preseason, MaKenna has approached her gymnastics without anxiety and has gone out and had fun. It has shown in her results,” said Farden.
The junior, who is enjoying her best season as a Ute, scored 39.675 in winning the all-around. She needed every tenth to fend off sophomore teammate MyKayla Skinner (39.625). Placing third in her first all-around appearance of the season was Lee (39.375). Lee replaced Missy Reinstadtler in the floor lineup to allow Reinstadtler to rest a sore foot.
“We have four exceptional all-around choices (Merrell-Giles, Skinner, Lee and Reinstadtler), which makes other teams envious,” said Farden. “That was another great meet for us and we are getting big contributions from every position in the lineup.”
Utah has set a season-high team score in each of the last three meets. The team got its biggest point production on Saturday on the opening and closing events.
“Both the leg events (vault and floor) were exceptional for us tonight,” said Farden. “We had some problems at the No. 5 spot on both bars and beam, but MyKayla (Skinner) kept them from impacting our overall score both times. Her routines immediately following her teammates’ miscues were outstanding and showed once again how mentally strong she is.”
Skinner won the beam with a 9.90, adding to Merrell-Giles’ victories in the all-around, vault and floor. The duo has now combined to win 22 individual titles this season—12 by Skinner and 10 by Merrell-Giles.
“The best thing is that, as good as we were today, we can be even better. When we hit all 24 routines the way we are capable, it is going to be really amazing,” said Merrell-Giles.
“This year has a different feel,” added Skinner. “We are healthy, strong and competing with confidence. And we all really want to win.”
Merrell-Giles stayed hot on bars, tying her career-high with a 9.875, which matched Reinstadtler’s as Utah’s highest score on the event. Tessen suffered the first fall of her career from the No. 5 position, but Skinner kept it from hurting with a 9.85 routine that brought the team score to 49.250. Utah led 98.875-98.100 at the midway point.
Skinner shined on beam receiving a 9.90 score for her routine, which included a 9.85 from one judge. Maddy Stover and Alexia Burch both chipped in solid 9.85s in a set that totaled a 49.225. Heading into the final event, Utah held a comfortable 148.100-147.250 lead over the visiting Huskies.
In her first floor routine of the season, Lee scored a 9.90, followed by a 9.90 by freshman Sydney Solosky (her third straight 9.90-or-better score this season). Merrell-Giles again created near pandemonium with her 9.975 routine and Skinner came close to equaling it with a 9.95 in the grand finale.
The Utes host Arizona State on Friday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. before heading on the road for three straight meets.