No. 4 Utah Gymnastics Faces No.3 Oklahoma in Heavyweight Matchup on Friday

University+of+Utah+womens+gymnastics+junior+Sydney+Soloski+performs+on+the+floor+in+a+dual+meet+vs.+Penn+State+at+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City%2C+Utah+on+Saturday%2C+Jan.+5%2C+2019.++%28Photo+by+Kiffer+Creveling+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

Kiffer Creveling

University of Utah women’s gymnastics junior Sydney Soloski performs on the floor in a dual meet vs. Penn State at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Chase Mullin, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The University of Utah gymnastics team’s season just got underway last Friday, yet the No. 4 Utah Red Rocks are already about to compete in one of their biggest meets of the entire season, as they host the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners Friday night at 7:30 at the Huntsman Center. This meet is enormous in the world of gymnastics, so much so that it will be nationally televised on ESPN 2. To put this into context for the casual college sports fan, this meet is the equivalent of Duke playing Kentucky in men’s college basketball, or Alabama playing Michigan in a Week 2 football matchup featuring the College Gameday crew.

Utah and Oklahoma are two of the most storied programs in all of college gymnastics. Utah holds the second most NCAA national championships with nine and is coming off a third-place finish at nationals in 2021. 

Oklahoma, on the other hand, is a modern-day dynasty, having won national championships in 2014, 2016, and 2017, with their latest national championship coming in 2019. The Sooners also finished in the top three at nationals every year since 2013, including finishing a mere one spot ahead of the Red Rocks with a second-place showing at the 2021 national championships.

“It’s exciting because I feel like when we saw them last year it was kind’ve an unknown situation and we were a little weary,” Utah junior Maile O’Keefe stated when asked about facing Oklahoma. “This year I think we’re going into it with, I wouldn’t say a more confident, but definitely overall better mindset.”

In their season opener, Oklahoma topped the No. 6 ranked University of Alabama by a score of 197.400-195.875. This included an impressive performance from sophomore Audrey Davis, who posted a 9.95 score on bars which helped contribute to a total score of 39.325, good enough for the all-around title in the Sooners’ opening meet.

On the Utah side, the Red Rocks are coming off a victory against in-state rivals BYU, Southern Utah, and Utah State in the Rio Tinto Best of Utah meet last Friday. In their season opener, Utah won all four events and hit 22 of 24 routines. The Red Rocks saw impressive performances from freshmen Grace McCallum, Amelie Morgan, and Kara Eaker, all of whom scored a 9.875 on beam. Senior Cristal Isa won the meet’s MVP award with 9.90 scores on bars and beam.

From a head-to-head standpoint, Utah comes into Friday with the upper hand on beam and vault, as the Red Rocks are ranked third in the country on beam(49.375) and fourth on vault(49.325), compared to Oklahoma who is ranked seventh on beam(49.175) and fifth on vault(49.300). Oklahoma, on the other hand, is favored on bars and floor, where they are ranked second(49.475) and third(49.450), respectively. Utah is ranked seventh on bars (49.225) and eighth on floor (49.175).

It will certainly be an electric atmosphere at the Huntsman Center on Friday night. Utah broke the NCAA gymnastics average attendance record in 2020, the last season with fans in attendance, with an average crowd of 15,273 fans per meet. This ranks higher than the average attendance of two MLB teams and four NHL teams in 2019 and 2020. A Friday night, nationally-televised meet with two top four teams, combined with one of strongest fanbases in college gymnastics should ultimately create an experience that any sports fan could appreciate.

Tomorrow night is also fan appreciation night, and the first 1,500 fans will receive an American First Credit Union fan t-shirt. Get your tickets now to come support the Red Rocks tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. MST.

 

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@Chase_Chat