No. 4 Red Rocks Come From Behind to Beat No. 9 Cal


University of Utah junior Cristal Isa in a NCAA Women’s Gymnastics meet vs. the UCLA Bruins at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor


It was the tale of two halves for the No. 4 University of Utah Red Rocks gymnastics team as they came back from behind after two rotations to take down No. 9 Cal, 197.375-197.125. 

The Red Rocks now move to 8-1 overall on the season and remain perfect in conference with a 5-0 record heading into their final Pac-12 meet of the season. Meanwhile, this is the first loss for Cal who moves to 4-1 overall and 3-1 in conference. 

The Red Rocks were sluggish out of the gates, posting a team total score of 49.175 on the vault. Not one gymnast scored above a 9.875 on the event. Once again, a major scoring discrepancy also affected the Red Rocks. On her vault, one judge awarded Lucy Stanhope a 9.950 while the other a 9.800, averaging out her score to a 9.875. 

According to head coach Tom Farden, the team went into the first rotation a little too focused, pressing too hard and really going after the sticks. 

Cal was able to capitalize off of the Red Rocks’ slow start and had led the pair of teams 49.200-49.175 after the first rotation. But the slowness continued for Utah who then took to the bars. While the issue of hops on landings seemed to be fixed for the majority of the gymnasts, the judges were keeping things tight with scoring and the Red Rocks continued to trail at the midway point of the meet. For the second rotation in a row, the Red Rocks did not record a score of 9.90 or better. 

But that all changed fourteen routines in, as Cristal Isa broke the drought of 9.90+ scores with her huge 9.950 on beam. 

“I feel like it’s been a little harder to gain momentum,” Isa said. “I feel like we just gained so much after because we’re all super excited, and we’re all like, ‘No I think trusting your gymnastics will work better than forcing it,’ which I think we tended to do at the beginning of the meet.” 

That opened things for the Red Rocks as Abby Paulson followed Isa with her own 9.950. Birthday girl Maile O’Keefe continued her quest for yet another perfect 10 as she scored a 9.975 to finish out the rotation for the Red Rocks. 

“After Cristal hit her being routine, the energy exploded I think within the team and within the Huntsman. It was just a really nice, you know, a boost to our energy,” O’Keefe said. 

Once again, the beam lineup came in clutch, and the Red Rocks were finally able to edge out a lead over Cal 147.925-147.675.

The high scores kept coming for the Red Rocks in the final rotation as Jaedyn Rucker scored a career-high score of 9.950 while Sydney Soloski sealed the deal with yet another 9.925. 

“It’s good to know that like, even if we’re in a drought, or we’re down, we can always just pick ourselves up and do our gymnastics,” O’Keefe said post meet. She won the all-around title with her score of 39.525. 

The Red Rocks will now head to Corvallis to take on Oregon State in what will be the final conference regular season meet for the team. The meet is scheduled for Friday, March 5 at 6 p.m. MST and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.


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