After a successful start and even better finish, the No. 2 University of Utah gymnastics team registered a season-high score to beat the No. 25 Oregon State Beavers, 197.45 – 196.3. The victory, however, didn’t come without a few mishaps by the Red Rocks as they had a short week of preparation leading up to the meet.
“I felt like tonight was a little bit of a bookend,” said co-head coach Tom Farden. “Vault, we started off really fast and it was a hot start. Bars and beam, we didn’t work with the confidence that I was looking for.”
On vault, Kim Tessen posted a 9.90, and that was followed by two 9.50 performances from MaKenna Merrell-Giles and MyKayla Skinner. The team finished with a score of 49.475 following this event.
Bars and beam gave the Red Rocks some trouble. Farden calls them events of rhythm, but the team struggled to find such rhythm. For Kari Lee, after struggling on bars, she was able to put the past behind her and help her team on beam.
“We obviously had a couple mistakes on the intricate events on bars and beam, but I think [we] pulled through on vault and floor — the power events,” Lee said. “And even with mistakes, we got a 197.45, so that’s pretty incredible. We still have work to do.”
Skinner, who was moved to the anchor spot in the beam lineup, landed a 9.975 on the night.
“They switched beam lineup so it was kind of nerve-racking,” Skinner said. “But at the same time, I knew that after everyone had gone up and hit, I felt relaxed like, ‘Okay, I got this, I can do this, just go up there and enjoy the moment.’ I’ve never been last on beam before, so I just went out there do to the best that I could for my team.”
After two shaky events, Utah put together an impressive showing on floor. Tiffani Lewis got things started off for the Red Rocks with a 9.925. Sydney Soloski also added a 9.925 for Utah. Chasing Skinner for the all-around was Merrell-Giles who came away with a 9.925.
Merrell-Giles finished in second place in the all-around, behind Skinner. Merrell-Giles has been working on letting loose this season, and by her doing so, she’s helping Utah improve each week.
“I just wanted to have fun, stop putting so much pressure on myself, and [I] just wanted to get out there and compete exactly how I practiced,” Merrell-Giles said. “And just stop freaking out about meets.”
The Red Rocks will get back to work as they prepare to hit the road to face Arizona on Friday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m.
“We had some misfire’s tonight [Friday] and as disappointing as those are, as a coach you have to look forward and be ecstatic about how good this team can be,” Farden said. “Without those misfires, it’s how good can we be? Where can we take this team this year? And so we’re excited about that.”