With viral floor sensation, Nia Dennis in tow, the #14 UCLA Bruins hit the Huntsman Center on Friday night with upset on their minds, as they attempted to topple the #3 ranked Red Rocks.
Senior Alexia Burch shined in the first rotation, nabbing a team high 9.975 on the vault, with no counted score falling below 9.800, giving Utah a two tenths lead before taking to the bars.
The Red Rocks early success carried over the bars in their second rotation, where they opened up a .250 lead over the Bruins with a trio of 9.825 scores and a pair of 9.875’s from junior Cristal Isa and sophomore Maile O’Keefe, with nearly the entire rotation suffering from lackluster handstands that failed to pitch the needed 90 degree angle to avoid deductions.
Burch opened up the beam rotation with a solid 9.850, hampered slightly by a balance check during her aerial pass, while O’Keefe, the reigning PAC-12 gymnast of the week, notched a an impressive 9.900, made all the more important after anchor Abby Paulson (sophomore) took a fall in her aerial pass, resulting in a 9.225, forcing the Red Rocks to count freshman Lucy Stanhope’s 9.775, the lowest counted score up to that point for Utah.
In their final rotation, Utah’s lead was cut to a mere .100 with UCLA surging on the beam. Freshman Jaylene Gilstrap’s 9.875 kept the Red Rocks in prime position to close out the meet, with Paulson’s acrobatic 9.900 keeping the momentum going off an impressive first pass that features a high reaching double backflip in her second pass. As anchor Sydney Soloski took to the mat, the senior floor specialist needed to score a 9.825, a feat she accomplished with ease, netting a 9.925 to secure victory over the Bruins, launching Utah to a 197.225.
While toppling their biggest in-conference rival, O’Keefe’s 9.750 on the floor led to her first defeat of the season in the all-around, shockingly taking last place behind UCLA’s Margzetta Frazier and Chae Campbell.
The Red Rocks will have seven days of rest before hitting the Huntsman Center floor on February 26th against California. The event will be televised on the PAC-12 Network starting at 7:00 PM MT.