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No. 4 Red Rocks Rally Late to Defeat UCLA

After four Red Rocks scored 9.900 or above on floor, the Red Rocks managed to take their first lead of the afternoon with just one rotation to go.
The+Utah+Red+Rocks+celebrate+after+Abby+Paulson%E2%80%99s+floor+routine+versus+the+Oregon+State+Beavers+at+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City+on+Friday%2C+Feb.+2%2C+2024.+%28Photo+by+Xiangyao+%E2%80%9CAxe%E2%80%9D+Tang+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Xiangyao Tang
The Utah Red Rocks celebrate after Abby Paulson’s floor routine versus the Oregon State Beavers at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

Coming off of six consecutive wins, including the Rio Tinto Best of Utah, the No. 4 Utah Red Rocks (8-3, 4-0 Pac-12) traveled to Los Angeles to face the No. 9 UCLA Bruins. UCLA is tougher than their ranking, as the team advanced to the NCAA semifinals last year.

The two teams have faced off already this year, both competing in the Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quad. In the Quad, Utah finished fourth with 196.975 and UCLA finished third with 197.100.

The Red Rocks started on bars with 9.900 from Makenna Smith, Utah’s only all-around competitor of the night. Alani Sabado had an unfortunate 8.600, followed by 9.875 from Amelie Morgan. Freshman Ella Zirbes got 9.800 before Maile O’Keefe only scored 9.775. Grace McCallum wrapped the rotation up with a 9.850 to give the Red Rocks 49.200 on bars.

Utah struggled on bars while UCLA thrived on vault. The Bruins scored 49.525 on the rotation, highlighted by a perfect 10 from Selena Harris.

Moving to the vault, Camie Winger got Utah started with 9.800, followed by Zirbes with 9.750. Vault troubles plagued the Red Rocks, as landings just weren’t sticking. Ashley Glynn scored 9.850, Smith scored 9.825 and Jaedyn Rucker scored 9.825. Morgan came in at the anchor to score a team-high 9.900.

The Red Rocks once again scored 49.200, giving them 98.400 halfway through the meet. Meanwhile, UCLA scored 49.300 on bars, expanding the lead to 98.825-98.400.

Despite the deficit, the Red Rocks had floor and beam remaining. Floor scores have increased throughout the season, and beam has almost always given Utah an advantage.

Smith once again got the Red Rocks started, this time on floor. She scored 9.825, followed by 9.875 from Zirbes. In only her first year, Zirbes has made herself a key part of the floor rotation. Abby Paulson made her first appearance of the afternoon, scoring 9.900. Jaylene Gilstrap matched Paulson’s 9.900, as UCLA struggled on beam. What was once a .425 deficit for Utah had shrunk to just .0.25. McCallum scored 9.925, followed by O’Keefe at the anchor with 9.900.

The Red Rocks managed to take their first lead of the afternoon, 147.900-147.700. Four of six gymnasts scored 9.900 or above on floor. Meanwhile, UCLA failed to score higher than 9.825 on beam.

With just one rotation to go, both teams seemed to be heading to their best event. Utah is one of the nation’s best beam teams, and UCLA has been strong on floor this season, including 49.625 against Washington.

Morgan got the start for the Red Rocks, a change from her usual position in the rotation. She scored a 9.750 but Utah’s lead expanded as UCLA’s Emily Lee scored 9.700, scores that both teams would hope to drop. Smith came in with a 9.825, giving her 39.375 in all-around competition. Elizabeth Gantner came in with 9.800, followed by McCallum with 9.875. Paulson came in with a much needed 9.925 as the lead started to narrow. O’Keefe came in at the anchor and needed 9.875 to secure the win for Utah.

As cheers from traveling Utah fans rolled in, it became apparent that O’Keefe hit that mark. She scored 9.975 to put the meet out of reach for UCLA, as Utah’s winning streak continued. The Red Rocks finished with 49.400 on beam, winning 197.300-196.975.

The Red Rocks now return home to face Stanford on Friday, Feb. 23. The meet will be held at the Jon M. Huntsman Center at 6:00 p.m. MST, and broadcast will be available on Pac-12 Networks.

 

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@seanoverton3

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About the Contributors
Sean Overton, Sports Editor
Sean Overton is the Editor of the Sports Desk. He is currently a senior and is majoring in Business Administration with plans to attend law school.
Xiangyao Tang, Photo Director
Axe is a photographer and the photo director of the Daily Utah Chronicle. He is from China and is a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in digital photography. Axe joined the Chronicle in August of 2021. In addition to his position at the Chrony, he is also a photo intern for University of Utah Athletics. When he's not writing code, you will find him rock climbing, camping, skiing or hiking with his camera.

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