No. 6 Red Rocks win Salt Lake Regional, Advance to 45th Consecutive National Championship


University of Utah junior Crystal Isa on beam at the NCAA Regionals Gymnastics meet at the Maverik Center in West Valley, Utah on Saturday, Apr. 03, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor


The No. 6 University of Utah Red Rocks gymnastics team will be heading to their 45th consecutive National Championship Semifinals after a monstrous win in the regional final meet. The Red Rocks posted a season-high score of 197.925 and will advance to Fort Worth along with LSU who scored 197.750 and clinched the second spot to nationals. 

The Red Rocks were red hot in the first rotation, scoring a season-high score of 49.475. Five out of the six Utah gymnasts stuck their landings, a stark contrast from meets past. Emilie LeBlanc and Cristal Isa both posted 9.90s, while Maile O’Keefe tied her career-high on the event with a 9.95. 

At the end of the first rotation, the Red Rocks and LSU were tied while Arizona State was in third while Kentucky brought up the rear. 

Once again Utah’s magnificent beam team only elevated their performance, posting three scores of 9.95. Alexia Burch also posted a 9.90 from the lead-off spot. Those four scores were able to give the Red Rocks a large lead at the halfway mark of the meet. Utah was the only team to be at the 99 point mark heading into the third rotation. 

The Red Rocks had a steady increase of scores on the floor for the third rotation, starting with Isa’s 9.85. Abby Paulson and Lucy Stanhope both posted 9.90’s while Jaedyn Rucker posted a 9.925. The one-two punch of O’Keefe and Sydney Soloski rounded out the impressive rotation with a pair of 9.95s. 

With a strong lead and one rotation away from punching their ticket to Fort Worth, the Red Rocks weren’t going to let their Achilles Heel derail their destiny. After Isa posted a 9.575 on her vault, the pressure was on to finish things strong. The highlight of the rotation came on Rucker’s vault, scoring a 9.95 that the Red Rocks desperately needed. 

No one was able to catch the Red Rocks as they finished the meet just 0.075 of a point away from the coveted 198 point mark that teams dream of scoring.

“I mean we still weren’t perfect. But that’s good, you don’t need to peak until April 17,” Soloski said. “There’s still a lot we can squeeze out, there’s little tenths, there’s quarter tenths everywhere. Some kids you know were as perfect as they’re going to be, but that’s not everyone from front to back, I do think that a 198 is extremely reasonable and possible for this team.”

Head coach Tom Farden echoed that sentiment, saying that score is the motivation for a team that so desperately wants it. 

“You got to find anything you can make them reach. If it’s 198, then let’s reach,” Farden said. 

But one thing is for sure, the Red Rocks welcomed back their fans with open arms tonight. The Utah fans were loud and ready to help bring the energy for the team. Soloski said the atmosphere at the Maverik Center was incredible and was so much fun. 

“We won the Pac-12 title with, I don’t know, 300 people here. So, anytime you have 2500 or whatever it was a different feel,” Farden said. “But you can feel the passion and you know the fan base in Salt Lake City is something we don’t take for granted we just know that our athletes love competing for their fan base.” 

The Red Rocks will now have two weeks off to recoup before they head to Fort Worth for the NCAA Semifinals. Utah along with LSU will take on Oklahoma and Alabama in Semifinal two on Friday, April 16. The semifinal one will feature Florida, Minnesota, Michigan and Cal. The top two finishers from those meets will advance to the National Championship meet on Saturday, April 17. 


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