Utah Gymnastics Advances to the Final Day of the NCAA Championships


Jonathan Wang

(Photo by Jonathan Wang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Chase Mullin, Assistant Sports Editor


Despite school being in session, the No. 4 University of Utah gymnastics team had a rather decent excuse to miss class Thursday morning: competing in the semi-finals of the NCAA National Championships at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. 

For those just now hopping on the bandwagon, which there is no shame in doing, the NCAA National Championships consist of the semi-final round, which features two different four-team meets, with the top two teams from each meet advancing to the final round, which this year will take place Saturday at 11 a.m. MDT. In the first semi-final competition, Utah faced off against No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 5 Alabama and No. 8 Minnesota, all of whom Utah has emerged victorious against so far this season.

It is worth noting that Utah is no stranger to the NCAA National Championships, as they have advanced to this stage, essentially the Elite Eight of college gymnastics, a total of 46 times in program history, making it this far every year since 2014. Coming off a third-place finish in the final round last year, however, Utah was not content with merely just making it to the semis.

In their last two meets, Utah had relatively mediocre performances by their standards in the first rotation. Opening up the semi-finals Thursday on floor, however, Utah came out of the gates firing, posting a 49.475 which was good enough to put them in first after one rotation. Utah’s floor score featured a 9.9375 from freshman Grace McCallum and a 9.9125 from fifth-year senior Sydney Soloski.

Utah transitioned to vault, where a 9.925 from Alexia Burch and a remarkable 9.625 from Jaedyn Rucker contributed to Utah’s 49.425 score on the event. This meet was shaping up to be a classic with Oklahoma in first at 98.925, followed closely by Utah at 98.900 and Alabama at 98.525.

On bars, Utah would post a 49.2125, highlighted by 9.90s from Sage Thompson and Maile O’Keefe. With Oklahoma pulling away in the third rotation to establish a firm grip on the first-place position, Utah’s season once again came down to their beam lineup in the final rotation. The Red Rocks led Alabama by a score of 148.1125-147.975 with second place and a spot in the finals on the line.

This is not the first time Utah’s beam lineup has faced a situation of this magnitude. In the first round of the NCAA regional stage, the Red Rocks escaped what would have been a catastrophic upset with four consecutive 9.950s. In the last round, O’Keefe and Kara Eaker secured Utah’s ticket to the semi-finals with back-to-back perfect 10s.

Ranked No. 1 in the nation for beam coming into Thursday and having recorded a record five perfect 10s this season, Utah’s beam lineup appeared unphased by the moment and expectations surrounding them. Amelie Morgan led off with a 9.90 and was followed by 9.935s from Abby Paulson, Eaker and O’Keefe. 

With a 49.600 on beam and a 197.7125 overall, Utah punched their ticket to the finals on Saturday, edging out Alabama who finished at 197.100, and coming in second behind Oklahoma who sent a message to the gymnastics world with a 198.1125.

Utah now advances to the NCAA finals on Saturday. Unlike many schools who would view having a season like the Red Rocks have had as an overall successful year, the general sentiment among the Red Rocks is championship or bust. Utah has sat at No. 4 all season, an impressive ranking that the Red Rocks have not been satisfied with. 

Dating back to one of their first press conferences of the season following the annual Red Rocks preview, the words from fifth-year senior Soloski represent Utah’s attitude toward the season as well today as they did back in December.

“I wouldn’t say being ranked fourth is insulting, it’s quite flattering. But I think with this team, returning all but one routine from last year, with a freshman class of four incredibly talented women and having the coaching staff that we do, we know that we can do more than just make the final day.”

Utah has now made it to the final day and has the chance once and for all to prove they are more than their No. 4 ranking. They will face No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Florida and No. 7 Auburn on Saturday at 11 a.m. MDT. Visit the gymnastics website to stream the event or get live stats.


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