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Red Rocks Roll In First Round of Nationals, Advance to Finals

Utah v UCLA Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

Opening the first session on the floor, Utah pulled together a superb 49.475 that launched the Red Rocks into an early lead thanks to stellar performances from former Olympian Grace McCallum who led the team with a 9.9375, as well as anchor Sydney Soloski, whose 9.9125 padded an already secured lead.

As the top seed Oklahoma Sooners were flexing their prowess on the bars, Utah turned in one of their best performances on vault, notching a cumulative 49.425, with Jaedyn Rucker leading the team with a 9.9625 off a Yurchenko full and a half that stuck like a lawn dart. Despite the valiant effort, a big jump forward from anchor Cammy Hall opened the door for Oklahoma to take a slim lead, ending Utah out 98.925 to 98.900.

McCallum’s all-around score took a blow in the third rotation as the Red Rocks moved to bars after a poor dismount saw the freshman star nearly land on her knees, resulting in a 9.725 just after Amelie Morgan opened the event with a 9.875. Freshman Sage Thompson turned the event around in the four spot, notching a clutch 9.900, a score matched by Mailie O’Keefe immediately following Thompson. An unfortunate overextension that led to a botched dismount gave star anchor Christal Isa a 9.700, forcing Utah to count McCallum’s 9.725, widening the gap between the Sooners and Red Rocks, and giving Alabama an opportunity to squeak into one of the top two spots as Utah’s cumulative score hit 148.1125, just behind Oklahoma's 148.4375, and edging out the Crimson Tide’s 147.975.

As the nation’s top beam team, Tom Farden’s squad amazed in their final rotation, dropping a 9.875 as Abbey Paulson, Mailie O’Keefe, Amelie Morgan, and Kara Eaker all scored over 9.900, culminating with a 49.600 to close out the event and seal second place, allowing Utah to advance to Saturday’s final round of competition. They will be joined by Oklahoma, and the top two teams from today’s evening session consisting of Michigan, Auburn, Florida, and Missouri. Coverage for Saturday’s finals will be available on ABC starting at 11:00 AM MT.