No. 5 Red Rocks Head to Fort Worth for NCAA Semifinals


Kevin Cody

University of Utah sophomore Maile O’Keefe at the NCAA Regionals Gymnastics meet at the Maverik Center in West Valley, Utah on Friday, April 2, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor


For the 45th year in a row, the No. 5 University of Utah Red Rocks gymnastics team is headed to nationals. The team is riding high into this year’s semifinals after dominating both competitions at the Salt Lake City Regional.

The Red Rocks will compete in semifinal two on Friday, April 16 in Fort Worth, Texas. Just like at regionals, the top two finishers from both semifinals will advance to the national championship meet which will be on Saturday, April 17. 

Utah is 1-1 versus teams in their semifinal. They defeated LSU in the regional final and the team’s only loss of the season came at the hands of Oklahoma in mid-January. Since then the Red Rocks have not dropped a meet. 

Semifinal Two Teams

Scouting the No. 5 Red Rocks

Record: 23-1, 6-0 Pac-12

Last meet: 1st @ SLC Regional Final, 197.925

National Qualifying Score: 197.556

The Red Rocks are coming into this year’s semifinal after sweeping the competition at the Salt Lake City Regional two weeks ago. In the finals, the team posted the third highest score in the country, behind No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Michigan.

Utah seemed to finally start to get over the hump on the bars, posting their highest score of the season (49.475) on the event at the finals. If they can score in the same range in Friday’s meet, along with continuing to post mind-blowingly high scores on floor and beam, the Red Rocks are in a good position to advance to the National Championship meet on Saturday.

In the final rankings, the Red Rocks moved up one spot to No. 5. On their best event, the beam, the team ranks No. 3 in the country. Maile O’Keefe leads the charge, ranking No. 1 in the country on the event. She is joined by Abby Paulson and Cristal Isa who rank No. 6 and No. 13 respectively on the event. That trio also ranks No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 in the Pac-12 on the event as well.

Utah’s Friday rotation order is as follows: beam, floor, vault, bars.

Scouting the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners

Record: 25-1, 5-0 Big 12

Last meet: 1st @ Tuscaloosa Regional Final, 198.175

National Qualifying Score: 197.944

The Sooners are also coming off an impressive win in their Regional final. The score they posted at their finals meet was their second-highest score of the season. The team is led by Anastasia Webb who was recently named the Region 4 Gymnast of the Year. She has a career-high score of 39.850 in the all-around and has posted perfect 10 scores on bars, vault and beam. Her career-high on the floor is a 9.950.

Due to the 2020 National Championships being canceled the Sooners are still considered to be the reigning champions heading into this weekend’s meets.

OU’s Friday rotation order is as follows: bars, beam, floor, vault.

Scouting the No. 4 LSU Tigers

Record: 14-6, 4-3 SEC

Last meet: 2nd @ SLC Regional Final, 197.750

National Qualifying Score: 197.813

LSU had their fair share of struggles at both regional competitions two weeks ago but were able to finish second to Utah in the finals to clinch their spot at nationals. Haleigh Bryant (39.625), Kiya Johnson (39.625) and Alyona Shchennikova (39.525) lead the team in the all-around.

LSU head coach Jay Clark was named the Region 1 Coach of the Year earlier this week while Bryant was named the Region 1 Gymnast of the Year.

The Tigers rotation order is as follows: floor, vault, bars, beam.

Scouting the No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide  

Record: 17-3, 4-3 SEC

Last meet: 2nd @ Tuscaloosa Regional Final, 197.575

National Qualifying Score: 197.538

Alabama is the lone team that the Red Rocks have not faced this season. The Crimson Tide won their first meet at the Tuscaloosa Regional but came in second place to Oklahoma in the final. Alabama is lead by all-arounders Luisa Blanco (39.825), Lexi Graber (39.575) and Shania Adams (39.475).

Blanco was also named the Region 1 Gymnast of the Year, sharing the honor with Bryant of LSU. Dana Duckworth was named Region 1 Head Coach of the Year this week also.

Alabama will rotate as follows: vault, bars, beam, floor.

How to Support the Red Rocks

Both semifinals will be broadcast on ESPN2 with Bart Conner and Kathy Johnson Clarke on the call. Semifinal One featuring Florida, Michigan, Cal and Minnesota is set to begin at 11 a.m MDT. The second session which features Utah will start at 4 p.m. MDT.

If the Red Rocks advance to the National Championship meet it is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. MDT on Saturday, April 17 and will be broadcast on ABC.


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