The Utah Gymnastics team had a disappointing night in Fort Worth, Texas on Friday, as the Red Rocks finished in sixth place in their national semifinal group to miss out on advancing to the Super Six.
After last season’s excellent second-place finish, Utah wanted to repeat 2015’s success with a younger and less experienced team, but pressure got the best of them, as errors on the beam cost the Red Rocks a chance to repeat last season’s success.
But the team went out with a fight and did all they could to make it to the top three of their group. Co-head coach Tom Farden was disappointed that the team’s season ended so early, but he was proud of what was accomplished as a whole this year.
“We had a great season overall and a rough night tonight,” Farden said. “I feel especially bad for the seniors since they don’t get another shot at it.”
With a tough session group, the Red Rocks had a tall task to compete with some of the best in the nation, including Pac-12 rivals UCLA and Cal, first-ranked Oklahoma, and tough opponents Nebraska and Alabama to round out the group.
The night started off with vault, with Breanna Hughes kicking things off in the right fashion with a 9.8875 finish. This was followed by Kailah Delaney, who finished her final vault routine with a 9.8375. Tiffani Lewis followed with a 9.8 and was followed by Baely Rowe and Houston native Samantha Partyka, both with 9.7875 scores. Kassandra Lopez finished the routine with a 9.7125, which put Utah in fourth place to start off the night.
On bars, the Red Rocks regained some much-needed points in order to compete with their competitors. Lopez earned a near-perfect 9.9 routine, followed by Sabrina Schwab with a 9.875. Rowe built off of her vault performance, earning 9.8625, and Partyka followed suit with a 9.85. Hughes ended the last bar set of the season with a disappointing 9.7125, but with Utah remaining in fourth place at the midway point, the Red Rocks still had plenty of confidence that they would get to the top three.
This all came crashing down, though, on the third rotation, as the beam once again got the best of Utah. The beginning of the end began with Partyka and Delaney falling on their routines, earning a 9.2150 and a 9.1375 , respectively. This hit the Red Rocks hard, but they tried to regain momentum with a 9.9 score from Rowe, a 9.8125 finish by Maddy Stover’s only performance, and Lopez, earning a 9.8.
In the final rotation, floor, Utah had a lot of points to make up in order to make it to the top three spots for the Super Six.
Rowe started with a decent 9.83 score, which helped her all-around score. Merrell then followed suit and earned the same score with her routine. Lewis came up with another consistent 9.86 to help the Red Rocks climb up the standings. Partyka, eager to rebound from her beam routine, earned another 9.81 score. Schwab ended her homecoming night in Texas with a 9.85, and Hughes ended Utah’s night with her final floor routine, earning a 9.8550.
Even though things didn’t work out the way they’d planned, Farden wanted to make sure his team finished strong.
“I told them, ‘What’s done is done,’” Farden said. “’We have one more event. Let’s show some pride and go out and attack it.’ And we did. We had a great floor set.”
Rowe was the team’s highest individual all-around scorer but didn’t have enough to make it in the individual round of the Championships. Lopez earned first team All-American status on bars with her performance, while teammate Rowe was a second team selection for the all-around and beam, and Schwab was a second teamer on bars.
It was a disappointing end to a season that was supposed to be a new start for this Utah program, but there is hope that this team will be able to do great things in the future, as they now look forward to 2017.