University of Utah women's gymnastics senior MaKenna Merrell-Giles performs on the balance beam in a dual meet vs. Penn State at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

Backed by yet another sellout crowd of over 15,000 fans, the No. 4 University of Utah Red Rocks Gymnastics team (5-0, 3-0 Pac-12) took down No. 23 Arizona Wildcats (3-4, 1-2 Pac-12) 197.075-195.400. Several girls on the team set either new personal or career bests in the contest.

The team started the meet off with a great lead on vault from Kari Lee. Lee scored a 9.875 to tie her season-high score on the event. Following Lee was Macey Roberts who scored a 9.825.

Alexia Burch was next to the vault. After sticking her landing, a look of pure shock mixed with excitement crossed her face. She scored a season-high 9.90. This was also a career-high score on this event for Burch.

MaKenna Merrell-Giles was the next on the event and a small step on her landing scored her a 9.85. Coming out of the five spot was MyKayla Skinner, who took a small step on her landing as well and scored a 9.875. Kim Tessen was set to compete in the six spot tonight on the event, but the team chose to scratch her score.

The Red Rocks lead at the end of the first rotation was 49.325-48.400. To co-head Tom Farden, the first rotation wasn’t the best but it was something the team could use to their advantage.

“Vault, I thought was really good in terms of coming out of the gates, and not our strongest performance on vault but definitely a good one,” he said.

The team headed over to the bars for their second rotation. Lee led off on the event again and scored a 9.800 on a solid routine. Hunter Dula hit the bars next and managed a career-high score of a 9.800. Dula wasn’t the only Red Rock to score a season-high on the event, Tessen who followed Dula scored a season-high of 9.875 on the event.

Merrell-Giles was next on the event and she scored a 9.900. Following her was Missy Reinstadtler who only competed in the bars due to an injury. Even though she had a hop on her dismount she still scored a 9.825. Rounding out the bar rotation was Skinner who came out with a 9.900 as well. Utah scored a total of 49.300 on this event.

After two rotations the lead had grown 98.625-97.200.

The balance beam woes continued for the team tonight as they didn’t reach 49 points on the event. They were just shy, scoring a 48.925. For the second week in a row, Burch fell off the beam and scored 9.075. Trying to rebound from that was Shannon McNatt who scored a 9.600.

The scores went up from there when Merrell-Giles scored a 9.875. Lee continued to be a consistent staple on the event, scoring a 9.925. Adrienne Randall continued her streak of high scores on the event, scoring a 9.825. Rounding out the rotation was Skinner who had two very unusual balance checks which lead to a score of a 9.750.

To Farden, the beam situation the team has had this season is frustrating because the girls seem to be overthinking what they are doing during competition and not during practice.

“That’s five meets and I know we have had a fall in each and what is frustrating is I don’t see that at practice,” he said. “Practice and competition are supposed to be the same, you compete like you practice and practice like you compete.”

Heading into the final rotation the Red Rocks continued to hold onto their lead 147.500-146.250.

Leading off for the team was Roberts who tied her season-high score of a 9.875 on her final event of the night. Farden was hyping up the crowd after Lee also tied her season-high of 9.875. Burch rebounded from her fall on the beam with a stellar performance on the floor scoring a season-high 9.825 on the event.

The crowd, as well as the Utah coaching staff, blew up with excitement as Randall scored a career-high of a 9.950 on her floor routine. To Randall the routine was just what she had been working for since the start of the season.

“I’ve been working really hard to make my floor better than what I started out with and once I had finished my floor routine, all I could think about was ‘wow all your hard work paid off,’” she said.

Coming off Randall’s stellar performance was Sydney Soloski, who scored a 9.900 on the event. Rounding out the competition was Merrell-Giles who scored a 9.925 on the event.

Utah scored a season-high 49.525 on the floor tonight, leading to a final score of 197.075-195.400.

Skinner did not compete in the All-Around category for the second time in her career. She was being held out as a precaution due to an ankle injury.

Merrell-Giles won the All-Around category with a score of 39.500. Right on her heels was Lee with a total score of a 39.475.

Winning the individual events for the team was Randall on the floor, Burch on vault, Lee on beam and Skinner and Merrell-Giles on bars.  

Utah will be back in action next Saturday, Feb. 9 to take on No. 18 Cal, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

s.mora@dailyutahchronicle.com

@s_mora99

Sammy Mora
Sammy Mora is currently in her second year of writing for The Daily Utah Chronicle. Before writing here, Sammy was a four year staff member of her high school newspaper The Speaking Eagle where she reached the level of sports editor.

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