No. 3 Red Rocks Take Down No. 13 UCLA in Dramatic Fashion


University of Utah senior Sydney Soloskiin a NCAA Women’s Gymnastics meet vs. the Washington Huskies at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Jan. 30, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora , Sports Editor


Just like in seasons past, it was a meet to remember as the No. 3 University of Utah Red Rocks gymnastics team squeaked by rival No. 14 UCLA 197.225-197.100. Like some anticipated, it all came down to the final two rotations to decide the heated outcome. 

But it wasn’t setting up to be that style of meet after the first rotation, where the Red Rocks built up a comfortable lead of 49.300-49.100. Once again Alexia Burch was the shining spot on the vault, adding yet another 9.975 to her season resume. 

“You know the mindset doesn’t really change for any event for me. I just go in trying to handle business every time, and if the stick comes, it comes, but I don’t really try and go for a stick every time, I just go for a big vault,” Burch said. 

The Red Rocks then jumped to the bars where things weren’t as clean. After Abby Paulson opened things up with a stuck landing on her routine, every Red Rock until Cristal Isa from the anchor had a hop on their dismount. According to head coach Tom Farden, some were minor deductions, while others were major. 

“I didn’t think they were very far off on them, but we’re obviously going to, you know, try to challenge them with some new and creative assignments that, you know, get them more comfortable and going after their dismounts,” Farden said. 

The Utah lead was extended after that second rotation, 98.525-98.275. 

The third rotation was set up to be one of the best to date with Utah on their best event, beam, and UCLA on their best event, floor, but things quickly started to slip away from the Red Rocks.

The rotation included some major judging discrepancies, including one judge giving Maile O’Keefe a 9.95 on her beam routine and the other a 9.85. While these issues are things that can baffle fans of the sport, elite level gymnasts like O’Keefe have seen things like this before. 

“They’ve seen a lot of judging disparities because they’ve been through the wringer in terms of judges and qualification rounds and all kinds of things and so they are accustomed to it,” Farden said. “They have to have thick skin, and they have to have confidence in themselves and the gymnastics that we know is absolutely stunning and beautiful.” Paulson also had a very uncharacteristic fall off the beam, scoring a 9.225 and forcing the Red Rocks to count Lucy Stanhope’s 9.775.

Utah held a 0.100 lead headed into the final rotation. Once again the judging decrepitness reared their ugly head. Jaylene Gilstrap opened things for the Red Rocks and while one judge scored her what would have been a career high 9.950 while the other judge scored the same routine a 9.800. 

Farden added that for him as a coach seeing these scoring issues make him question how the coaching staff feels about routines. 

“The most frustrating part sometimes is when I see out there or our coaches see out there a brilliant routine. And then we have disparities of a tenth or more, because it almost questions you as a coach because the angles [for judges] should be both side on or across from each other as far as the judges and what they’re seeing, and you know it’s the liabilities of a subjective sport,” Farden said.

Paulson rebounded from her fall on beam with a 9.900, the only score in that range until the sixth performer in the Utah lineup. With UCLA having one of their best nights on beam, the margin was very slim to keep the victory in the Red Rocks grasp. 

Enter Sydney Soloski. 

The senior did some quick math before her routine and figured she would need a minimum of a 9.900 to make sure the Red Rocks would remain undefeated in conference. But even though the pressure was on her mindset didn’t change. She wanted to fight until the very end. 

“I mean, Sydney, Sydney was the MVP tonight for many reasons and she just you know through her leadership and then also being able to get it done at a decisive moment, it just speaks volume for confidence,” Farden said. “Her ability to command her gymnastics and so I really enjoyed watching that particular floor routine, I thought it was very spunky.” 

Soloski earned a 9.90 from one judge and a 9.95 from the other, which averaged out to a 9.925 — enough to clinch the win for the Red Rocks. 

The Red Rocks will now turn their attention to Cal who will be in Salt Lake next Friday, Feb. 26. This will be the second to last conference meet for the Red Rocks who are looking to finish off yet another undefeated in conference season. 


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