O’Keefe is Perfect as No. 4 Red Rocks Roll Over Huskies

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The Utah Red Rocks gymnast and University of Utah sophomore Maile O’ Keefe performs on the beam against the Arizona Wildcats in an NCAA dual meet at Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on 23 Jan 2021. (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor

 

The No. 4 University of Utah Red Rocks gymnastics team continued their quest for perfection on Saturday night as they easily rolled to victory over the University of Washington Huskies, 197.475-193.500. The Red Rocks continued to build off of their season high score they put up last week. 

Utah jumped to an early lead in the first rotation on the backs of one of their more solid vault rotations of the young season. Maile O’Keefe opened up her night with a 9.825 on the event and then both Lucy Stanhope and Cammy Hall added a pair of 9.850’s to the team total. The highlight of the event was when Alexia Burch scored an individual season high score of 9.925 on the event. She won the event total with that score. 

For the second rotation, the Red Rocks hit the bars, the event that, according to head coach Tom Farden, is the team’s weakest out of the four events. 

Similar to last week, the team had to count a score of 9.775 but was highlighted by Cristal Isa’s 9.925 on the event. She claimed the event title with that score. But according to Farden, there is still a lot of room for improvement on both bars and vault, and the coaches will turn their attention to bringing those events up to the standards of the back two events. 

“I do think that those events are not far behind in terms of where the floor and beam are,” Farden said. “I think we’re right where we’re at. We’re going to try to tweak some things and squeeze a little bit more out of the vault and bars, get a little stronger.” 

While the first two events were looking to get a boost in the scoring department, Utah proved once again that they are an elite team on the beam. After a fall on the first performance of the rotation, the pressure was on for the Red Rocks to bounce back. Buch got things going with a 9.900 on the beam. Adrienne Randall and Isa both posted scores above 9.8 but the shining moment of the meet came from the fifth performer in the lineup. 

After coming very close to getting the perfect score for the last two seasons, O’Keefe finally achieved her goal of scoring one in NCAA gymnastics. As of Saturday night, it was only the second 10 that had been scored throughout the entire country and the second 10 the Red Rocks have scored on the event in the last two seasons. 

But due to COVID protocols, O’Keefe wasn’t able to celebrate the perfect score in a traditional way. 

“I mean it was really weird. Everyone was like ‘is there any way we can hug her’ and there’s just, you know, there’s no way right now but, I mean, it felt really good to be out there with them and just knowing that they’re there supporting me even though I can’t feel it,” O’Keefe said. 

But the high scores were not going to stop there. Abby Paulson almost had her second 10 on the beam but her final score came out to a 9.950. 

Paulson continued on her mission heading into the final rotation where she opened the floor rotation with a 9.900. The four next gymnasts all posted scores of 9.80 or better to add to Utah’s already huge lead. The night was closed out for the Red Rocks when Sydney Soloski also almost scored an illusive 10 on the event. One judge did give her a 10 while the other gave her a 9.95 which led to her score of 9.975. She claimed the event title with that score. 

O’Keefe not only clinched the beam title with her perfect score but also easily won the all-around title with a 49.525. 

The Red Rocks will hit the road next week as they head to the desert to take on Arizona State next Saturday, Feb. 6. 

 

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