Mistakes, though mostly minor, seemed to plague the University of Utah Red Rocks gymnastics team in their matchup against the much improved Arizona State Sun Devils, leading to a dramatic road victory for the #3 Red Rocks, while securing their third straight cumulative score of 197.000+.
Sophomore Abby Paulson’s 9.850 on the uneven bars was hindered by a slightly off kilter initial handstand, but was otherwise perfect, helping set the tone early, which was needed after freshman Alain Sabado had an awkward fall while attempting to transition from the lower bar to the higher bar, resulting in a 9.200. Subpar dismounts became the trend as the first rotation wore on with a trio of 9.825s from seniors Alexia Burch and Maile O’Keefe and sophomore Emilie LeBlanc before junior anchor Cristal Isa came through with a solid 9.900.
Isa kicked off the second rotation with a tight Yurchenko double full with a clean, but not perfect landing to net a 9.850, with the Red Rocks forced to beat a 49.350 from the red hot Sun Devils, the highest they have scored on the vault since 2006. O’Keefe’s 9.900 in the second spot showed that the #3 ranked Red Rocks were capable of hanging with the 16th ranked Sun Devils. After a series of sub 9.900 scores, it appeared the Red Rocks were in danger of losing the vault to the home team before Burch landed a 9.975 to solidify Utah’s 49.475.
Entering the third rotation, Utah was down .025 after a strong performance from ASU on the bars that earned a 49.375, and they did themselves no favors on the floor. Paulson’s step-out to start the rotation resulted in a automatic one tenth deduction, resulting in a 9.700, with no Utes able to crack a 9.900 or better until sophomore Jaedyn Rucker’s 9.900 gave the Red Rocks some much needed momentum, which O’Keefe took advantage of with her floor routine, netting a career high 9.925. Senior anchor Sydney Soloski wrapped the rotation with a 9.900 in a rotation that features a high-flying double lay out on the first pass and one of the most energetic tumbling routines in all of NCAA gymnastics.
The strong finish on the floor gave the Red Rocks their first lead of the afternoon, with ASU trailing 148.125-147.750 before heading to the beam to wrap the event.
With the entire event roster suffering from balance checks, no single gymnast was able to break into the 9.900 range until anchor Abby Paulson secured a 9.950, with all rounder Maile O’Keefe, who had scored a perfect 10.000 just last week, recording a season low 9.875.
Despite the middling performance on the beam, the Red Rocks completed the comeback, edging out ASU 197.450 to 197.15. Next Monday’s meet against Stanford has been cancelled due to the Cardinal not having adequate time to prepare after COVID restrictions in Santa Clara County were just lifted on January 27th, meaning Utah will have some extra time off before returning to the Huntsman Center on February 19th to face UCLA in a 7:00 PM matchup that will be televised on ESPNU.