No. 3 Red Rocks Earn Season-High Score with Victory Over No. 21 Arizona


Kiffer Creveling

University of Utah women’s gymnastics junior MaKenna Merrell-Giles performs on the floor in a duel meet vs. Brigham Young University at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Carra McManamon

In an event the Red Rocks have struggled in this year, the No. 3 University of Utah gymnastics team put together its best performance of the season on beam as it finished with a season-high score for the entire meet. The Red Rocks beat No. 21 Arizona on Friday night by a score of 197.550-196.325.

MaKenna Merrell-Giles led the way with the best showing of her career. She claimed the all-around title with a score of 39.625.

“MaKenna was in a great space today [Friday],” said co-head coach Tom Farden in a Utah Athletics press release. “She was calm and confident, and it showed in her gymnastics.”

Not only did the Red Rocks earn a high score on the road, but they nailed 24-of-24 of their events.

Starting off on the uneven bars, Utah posted a 49.300. Kari Lee got her first win of the season with a score of 9.90, while MyKayla Skinner, Missy Reinstadtler, Tiffani Lewis and Merrell-Giles all posted 9.85s.

Utah then recorded a 49.425 on vault. Merrell-Giles led the way with a near perfect routine where she stuck a 9.95. Lee and Skinner both landed 9.90s.

The Utes were able to pull away from its competition on floor with stellar performances from Merrell-Giles, Skinner and Sydney Soloski. Merrell-Giles scored a 9.925, and Skinner and Soloski both scored a 9.90.

The event of the night for the Red Rocks was beam. Despite being ranked in the top-20 in the event, Utah has had its fair share of struggles. With this being its final rotation of the night, Utah closed the meet on a high note.

“I feel like the girls had a good week of training on beam, and I felt like we addressed some of what I was looking for in terms of finishing off their elements in what I call functional landing positions and going for rock solid landings,” said co-head coach Megan Marsden. “I felt like because we really focused on that throughout the week and trained with that intent, they were willing to carry that through in the meet, and now my job is to get that more often.“

Lee, an Arizona native who put on a show in front of her home crowd, scored a 9.925 on beam. Merrell-Giles and Alexia Burch landed 9.90s for the Red Rocks. Skinner, who was in the anchor spot, had a mishap on her routine and for the first time in her career, she failed to win an event.

This meet showcased the depth that Utah has when the whole team is performing on all cylinders.

“What a way to end a meet — on the the balance beam, on the road, against a good Arizona team,” Farden said in a Utah athletics press release. “It was just outstanding. Overall, the meet was a great dress rehearsal for Pac-12’s.”

Utah will return home to face Washington on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 1:30 p.m.

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