No. 4 Red Rocks Open Season with Dominating Win at Best of Utah

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University of Utah women’s gymnastics sophomore Cristal Isa performs on the floor in the Deseret dual meet vs. BYU, Utah State, and Southern Utah University at the Maverik Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor

 

Despite a somewhat slow start on the bars, the No. 4 University of Utah Red Rocks picked up right where they left off last season. The Red Rocks took home the Copper Trophy for the second year in a row after defeating No. 17 BYU, No. 23 Southern Utah and Utah State in the second annual Best of Utah meet. 

Utah finished the night with a score of 196.900. BYU came in second with a 195.700. SUU came in third with a score of 194.350 and Utah State rounded out the pack with a 194.100

To start the night the Red Rocks took to the bars, while all the landings were there for the team, short handstands seemed to be the issue plaguing the squad in their first meet. Abby Paulson, Emilie LeBlanc and Maile O’Keefe all posted scores of 9.775. True freshman Alani Sabado started her Red Rocks career off with a 9.700 on the event, while Alexia Burch scored a 9.800 on her first time competing on the event. Cristal Isa was the high scorer for the Red Rocks with a 9.850.

“They were just a little tight on a few of their handstands. The fluidness of their bars and the swing and the mechanics were intact and done very well,” Head coach Tom Farden said post meet.  

After the first rotation the Red Rocks led, and wouldn’t give up the lead for the rest of the meet. 

For the second rotation the Red Rocks took to what is definately their strongest event, the beam. Things started off wobbly as both LeBlanc and Burch had costly balance checks resulting in scores of 9.575 and 9.750. But the back half of the lineup for the Red Rocks showed once again why this team was No. 2 in the nation in the event at the end of last season. 

Isa started the group off with a 9.900, the first of the season for the team. Adrienne Randall followed with a 9.875 but the final two performances were just what the team needed to give them a boost heading into the third rotation. O’Keefe and Paulson both posted scores of 9.925, a normal fans are now used to seeing.  

But it was Isa’s routine that gave the team the jumpstart they needed on the event. 

“We can always count on Cristal to hit when she needs to hit,” O’Keefe said. 

“I don’t really think before beam,” Isa said. “I was just focused on myself and my gymnastics and taking it one skill at a time. And I knew that if I could just focus on that I could hit it and the rest of the lineup would hit it and we’d be back on track.” 

And back on track they went as the team headed to the floor for their third rotation and started strong with Isa’s 9.850. Jaedyn Rucker made her Red Rocks debut after missing last season with a knee injury and scored a 9.875. That score was matched by Paulson on the next routine. Lucy Stanhope also made her debut, scoring a 9.850. O’Keefe had the highest score of the night with a 9.90. Sydney Soloski closed out the rotation with a 9.775 after a somewhat uncharacteristic step on her iconic double double.  

For the final rotation the Red Rocks took to the vault and closed the night out with some solid scores. O’Keefe opened with a 9.775 while Isa and Stanhope added a pair of 9.800’s to the teams total. Rucker scored a 9.825 while Burch scored a 9.850 from the anchor. Cammy Hall had the highest score for the Red Rocks with a 9.900. 

Both Isa and O’Keefe ran in the all-around category and the pair were separated by 0.025 of a point when the final scores were announced. Isa ended up taking the title while O’Keefe came in second. 

While the Red Rocks proved they are the best in the state, they won’t have much time to savor this victory as they will be faced with their biggest challenge next Sunday when they head to Norman to take on No. 2 Oklahoma in what might be a preview of the NCAA Championships. 

 

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