SALT LAKE CITY — The Red Rock faithful erupted into a standing ovation as Ute senior Gael Mackie hit her final pass on floor to close out the home season for the Ute gymnasts. And none smiled bigger on senior night than Mackie, who expressed relief for both hitting the pass and for stringing together three solid events.
Mackie's career as a Ute has been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs that has included injuries, falls and career bests. On Friday, as fifth-ranked Utah battled No. 1 Florida, the ups won out. The Canadian hit a career-best of 9.9 on the vault, and tacked on a 9.875 on the bars and 9.85 on the floor as Utah held its own against the Gators.
The vault is an event Mackie has competed in only one other time this season, but she was put in the lineup Friday night to offset injuries. Also a change for Mackie was being pulled from the beam lineup, where she had become a regular.
"I've made a couple of mistakes on beam," said Mackie. "Luckily my team has been there for me when I've had the mistakes, and I've been able to be there for them and hit when they've had mistakes. I love the beam so I want to continue with it."
Head coach Greg Marsden admitted Mackie has struggled in the event and that others have been performing well, so he elected to switch around the lineups.
The result couldn't have pleased him more as Mackie earned her career best.
"Sometimes that's just the way it goes," said Marsden. "I really feel like Gael is conquering her demons. She has always been a beautiful gymnast, but in meets she tries so hard, it causes her to make some mistakes. She tightens up so much. I feel like in the last few weeks we have had some breakthroughs and she is changing her approach to competition. She is relaxing and taking some of the pressure off. She's doing more in competition what she does in practice."
As for Mackie, she credits having more fun in the gym and in competition as a major reason for the breakthrough.
"I am really just having more fun out there. Tonight I just relaxed and let it happen and was happy to contribute to the team. Tonight couldn't have gone better for me," said Mackie.
Marsden said the lineup changes should benefit the team as it continues to battle injuries and build depth in events. He expects Mackie to continue to be a main contributor as Utah closes out the regular season with two road meets before the postseason begins.