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Red Rocks Blast Penn State to open season

The 2019 Red Rocks team made their season debut Saturday afternoon against the Nittany Lions of Penn State, resulting in a dominating win over their Big 10 counterpart.

Kicking things off on the vault was Kari Lee, who’s 9.875 effort earned emphatic cheers from the packed Huntsman Center crowd. Cristal Isa and Alexia Burch’s runs were skillful, but shakey landings led to lower scores, 9.825 and 9.800 respectively, before Macey Roberts and MaKenna Merrel-Giles turned things around posting scores of 9.850 and 9.900. It was fan favorite MyKykla Skinner who’s 9.950 jolted the crowd into a frenzy after near her flawless execution resulted in the highest score of any Ute in the first rotation.

Penn State turned in back to back 9.775 performances on the uneven bars from Ava Verdeflor and Tess McCracken, eventually breaking the 9.8 ceiling when sophomore star Lauren Bridgens 9.850 attempt salvaged the Lions first rotation, resulting in a final team score score of 48.950 on the bars.

Kim Tessen’s 9.850 start on the uneven bars was a beautifully executed routine, but Kari Lee’s buttery smooth transitions between the bars were one of the highlights of the rotation, though a small step on the landing resulted in a lower than desirable 9.825. Landing troubles continued with Merrell-Giles, who matched Lee’s 9.850, along with Missy Reinstadtler. Cristal Isa finally found stable footing with a 9.925 routine that will surely keep fans excited as the season progresses. It was anchor MyKyla Skinner who lead the way for the Utes, turning in a 9.950 routine with perfectly vertical handstands and a fantastic landing.

Penn State’s struggles on the vault were evident, with Sabrina Garcia turning in a team low 9.500 after a dramatic misstep hindered an otherwise well executed run, but Kourtney Chinnery’s 9.775 lead the Lions, who failed to break the 9.800 mark, ending with a final score of 48.625, well below Utah’s 49.400.

Utah’s domination continued on the beam after Adrienne Randall’s 9.850 routine, which features a terrifying split-leg landing on top of the beam, delighted fans. Missy Reinstadtler’s routine, which is set to Led Zeppelin’s classic, “Going to California” was victim to the Red Rock’s most egregious error of the evening after a fall from the beam, hurting her otherwise entertaining routinewith a 9.250 final score. In the end, Merrell-Giles’ 9.900 was the high point for the Utes, who finished the rotation with a 48.975, their only rotation to finish under 49.000 points.

Tess McCracken’s floor routine was littered with literal missteps, falling out of bounds on two occasions before finding her feet on her final tumbling pass, resulting in a dismal 8.450. Errors continued for Penn State as Kristen Politz and Jessie Bastardi both found their way out of bounds during their tumbling passes before Melissa Astarita’s performance salvaged Penn State’s rotation, earning a 9.650 and opening the door for Lauren Bridgens and Sabrina Garcia who tied with team-high 9.825 runs.

Sabrina Garcia’s beam routine saw the Lions once again struggle to maintain solid footing after a fall and multiple close calls, resulting in a 9.100, but Kristen Politz turned things around with a solid 9.775 turn that was technically proficient but lacking in difficulty. Success continued for the Lions with Jessie Bastardi’s routine that earned a 9.825, finishing the rotation with a team-high 9.850 from Mason Hosek.

Finishing things on the floor, Kari Lee’s high-flying tumbling pass wowed fans who gleefully clapped and stomped along with the electronic soundtrack, but it was Macey Roberts whose elegant acrobatics got things rolling for Utah with a 9.875, followed by a 9.775 from Missy Reistadtler and a 9.850 from specialist Sydney Soloksi. In the end, it was MyKyla Skinner’s 9.950 finale that not only solidified the easy win for the Red Rocks, but clinched all-around honors for the energetic junior.

The Red Rocks will now hit the road for the next three weeks with matches at BYU, Oregon State and Arizona State before returning to the Huntsman Center on February 1st when they face off against PAC-12 foe, Arizona.