No. 5 Red Rocks Set Season High in Senior Day Victory Over No. 9 Michigan


Curtis Lin

University of Utah senior Makenna Merrell-Giles performed her floor routine in an NCAA Women’s Gymnastics meet vs. UCLA at Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, UT on Saturday February 23, 2019. (Photo by Curtis Lin | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor


The No. 5 University of Utah Red Rocks Gymnastics team (10-2, 5-1 Pac-12) was not going to let their senior class take one final bow at the Jon M. Huntsman Center without getting a win in the process. The team took down No. 9 Michigan (13-3, 9-0 Big Ten), scoring a season-high 197.975-197.350.

It was the last home meet for four seniors who have had successful careers at Utah.

Things started off hot when senior Kari Lee set a season-high score of 9.925 on her vault. Senior Macey Roberts kept things going as she scored a 9.875 on her try. Alexia Burch continued the 9.8 streak and senior MaKenna Merrell-Giles and junior MyKayla Skinner both scored a pair of 9.95’s on the event. Kim Tessen’s 9.75 was the team’s dropped score on the event.

At the end of the first rotation, Utah led 49.500-49.200. The match’s vault total is a season-high on the event.

Co-head coach Tom Farden said that he knew the night was going to be special after Lee started the meet.

As soon as Kari came out of the gates and dropped that vault, I knew it would be a good day,” Farden said.

Lee and Tessen started the bar lineup with a pair of 9.80’s. From there, the scores only got higher with Merrell-Giles, Missy Reinstadtler and Skinner all scoring 9.925’s. Merrell-Giles’ performance ties her career high on the event and sets a season-high as well.

Utah’s lead grew to 98.850-98.525 heading into the third rotation.

Coming off a huge beam rotation last week, the team picked up right where they left off with Lee and Burch scoring 9.900 on the event. Burch’s score ties her career high on the event. There was a scoring discrepancy during Sydney Soloski’s routine with one judge giving a 9.8 and the other a 9.65, which lead to an averaged score of a 9.725. After that, the team hit three 9.850 routines in a row from Merrell-Giles, Adrienne Randall and Skinner.

The lead that Utah had given themselves quickly shrank as they headed into the final rotation. Utah still led 148.300-148.00.

On their final floor routines in their home arena, both Roberts and Lee showed out, scoring 9.925 which ties a career high for Lee and sets a new career high for Roberts. Randall’s score of a 9.850 was the low of the rotation and was dropped. Soloski then picked up where the first two performances left off with a 9.925. On her last event, Merrell-Giles also tied her season high with a 9.925. Putting an exclamation point on the floor was Skinner, who scored a 9.975 to finish off the meet. Utah scored a season-high 49.675 on their floor set during the meet.

The team scored a season-high team score and that won’t go without being rewarded. With the team getting ready to head to the Pac-12 Championship, the gymnasts have been trying to get something to keep their feet warm during competition.

“It’s exciting because we’ve been asking for slippers and Tom said we could [get some] if we scored a 197.8, and now we beat it, so now I’m hoping he’ll get us Ugg slippers,” MyKayla Skinner said.

“They’ll be standing on cement and it’s cold on their feet and they won’t have the comforts of the Huntsman so they want to keep their feet warm. Last year we went to an arena that had cement and I bought them electric socks but they were kinda ugly and looked like hunting socks so they have now asked for an upgrade and to get some slippers,” Farden said.

Skinner not only clinched the all-around victory (39.700) but also secured her 100th career victory as well. Skinner took the lone victory on the floor but tied with her teammates on two other events. Skinner tied with Merrell-Giles and Reinstadler on the bars and Merrell-Giles on the vault. Michigan’s Lauren Farley, Olivia Karas and Natalie Wojcik took first on the beam with scores of 9.925.

Merrell-Giles tied with Karas for second place in the All Around category with 39.650 points.

The team is headed into a bye week, but they will finish off the regular season in Athens, GA to take on No. 7 Georgia in yet another top ten showdown.

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