The Huntsman Center was packed to capacity on Saturday when the University of Utah gymnastics team defeated the University of Washington,197.700-196.250. The Red Rocks went into the competition rested after having an extra day to work with due to the day of their meet this past weekend.
The Red Rocks took a quick lead after impressive performances on vault. The highlight of the event came when MaKenna Merrell-Giles scored a perfect 10.
“Right before I hit my last half, I could just tell it was right there,” Merrell-Giles said.
With 15,558 fans in support, MyKayla Skinner powered through her vault routine, too, as she scored a 9.925.
The Red Rocks continued to show dominance on bars until Kim Tessen fell, but Utah didn’t let the mistake negatively effect the team on the individual event nor the whole meet. The Red Rocks went on to score a 49.150 total score on bars.
On the third event of the night (beam), discrepancies between the judges showed in the results for both squads. According to co-head coach Tom Farden, however, when athletes earn a different score than what the coaches may have thought they deserved, it washes out by the end of the meet in most cases. The Red Rocks ended up finishing with a score of 49.225 on beam.
The Red Rocks showed dominance on floor by show of a 49.600 score. Merrell-Giles received the top score on floor with a 9.975 routine.
Three Utes competed in the all-around category. Kari Lee, who performed for her first time in the all-around this year, replaced Missy Reinstadtler on floor.
“You can see with Lee, Skinner, Reinstadtler and Merrell, you got four really good all-around choices that a lot of teams in the NCAA are envious of,” Farden said.
Merrell-Giles edged out Skinner for the all-around title. This is the second week in a row Merrell-Giles has taken the title. Despite her personal success, what stood out to her was the team’s achievements.
“I think the coolest thing about tonight is we got our highest score so far, but we still have things to work on,” Merrell-Giles said. “When we hit all 24 routines, it’s going to be amazing.”
Farden is pleased with the way Utah put on a show at home.
“For this team to throw up a 197.700 and to keep us amongst the elite teams in the country, it says a lot about this team’s drive, their determination and the chip on their shoulder,” Farden said.
The Red Rocks will be back at home on Friday, Feb. 9, to host Arizona State, at 7 p.m.