Red Rocks Post Season Best Score, Place Third at Nationals


Kevin Cody

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

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor


It was a fight until the very end for the No. 6 seeded University of Utah Red Rocks Gymnastics team as they competed in the NCAA Championship meet. The Red Rocks came in third place in the competition and scored not only a season-high but also the program’s highest team score ever in a National Championship meet on Saturday. 

Michigan won their first title with a score of 198.2500, while Oklahoma took second, scoring 198.1625. The Red Rocks finished just shy of the 198-point mark scoring 197.9875. Florida rounded out the competitors in the session with a score of 197.1375. 

The Red Rocks laid themselves a great foundation in the first rotation, putting up a team score of 49.4250 on the bars to start their day. Individual national champion Maile O’Keefe tied with Jordan Draper and Anastasia Webb of Oklahoma and Megan Skaggs of Florida for first place on the event. O’Keefe’s score of 9.9375 was nearly identical to the one that won her her title last night.

In the second rotation, the beam team that Utah fans have grown accustomed to was back with a vengeance, with only one score not reaching the 9.90 mark on the event. Alexia Burch was the gymnast to not cross that threshold, but the other five competitors in the lineup came to play. Freshman Lucy Stanhope followed Burch’s leadoff with a 9.90. She was then followed by three scores of 9.9375 from Cristal Isa, Abby Paulson and Adrienne Randall. O’Keefe finished things off with a fantastic score of 9.9875. 

The team was still in third place at the midway point of the meet but was in a position to jump OU for the second-place spot. 

Headed to the floor, the Red Rocks needed to post another big score to keep their championship hopes alive. O’Keefe and Jaedyn Rucker both posted scores of 9.925 for the Red Rocks, but after Sydney Soloski couldn’t seem to cross the 9.90 mark with her routine, the Red Rocks were left to rely on their weakest event, vault, to see if they would win the crown. 

Only two of the six Utah gymnasts scored above a 9.90 on their vaults. Burch scored a 9.9375 from the anchor spot and Rucker scored the highest of any gymnast with a 9.9875. In fact, four of the six judges scoring the event awarded Rucker with a 10. 

But it wasn’t enough as both OU and Michigan had built up enough of a lead to hold off Utah, leaving the Utes to take third place in the championship. This was the highest the team had finished at nationals since 2015 when the team took second overall. This is the first third-place finish for the team since the 2009 season. 

Utah will also be adding a few members to their storied All-American honors list as four Red Rocks were awarded the honor. O’Keefe led the charge, being named First Team All-American on bars and floor and Second Team in the all-around. Isa and LeBlanc were named Second Team on bars and Soloski was named to Second Team on floor. 

With today’s meet, the 2021 Red Rocks season comes to a close. With eligibility clocks frozen, the majority of this Utah team will be back for next season. As of right now, LeBlanc will be the only person not returning, meaning head coach Tom Farden and staff will only have one open routine spot. But with the additions of Grace McCallum, Kara Eaker and Sage Thompson and the possible return of MyKayla Skinner, this 2022 Red Rocks team is in a prime position to be back at the Final Four next year. 


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