Our beam workers stayed in their element under intense pressure and we continue to show just a ton of tenacity. —Utah co-head coach Tom Farden
LOS ANGELES — The No. 3 Utah gymnasts kept their cool in sunny Los Angeles, knocking off No. 2 UCLA 197.550-197.425 before a raucous crowd of 11,085 in Pauley Pavilion. It was Utah’s first win in Pauley since 2008. Fittingly, given these two teams’ history, the meet came down to the final event.
Trailing by 0.150 at the midway point, the Utes moved into a tie with the Bruins on the third event with an outstanding 49.550 performance on the floor exercise highlighted by a near-perfect 9.975 from MyKayla Skinner. And then, with the meet on the line, all six Utes attacked their routines on the balance beam — tying their best score of the season with a 49.400—to surge past UCLA and clinch the win.
Skinner led a parade of Utah all-arounders in the top three, scoring a 39.625 to win her fifth all-around of the season, with MaKenna Merrell-Giles (39.525) and Kari Lee (39.500) close behind in second and third. It was a career all-around high for Lee.
Skinner also won or tied for first in three of the four individual events, scoring a 9.975 on floor, a 9.95 on vault and a 9.925 on beam. But this was a team effort all the way around.
“You could feel the pressure on both teams in this great environment,” said Utah co-head coach Tom Farden. “Both of us showed uncharacteristic nerves at the beginning of the meet. But we settled down (in the second half) and that beam was maybe the best we have done all year. Our beam workers stayed in their element under intense pressure and we continue to show just a ton of tenacity.”
The meet was close from the outset with UCLA leading by .015 after one rotation and an identical margin after round two.
Merrell-Giles and Kim Tessen both produced 9.90 bar routines to lead Utah to a 49.300 on the first event. For Merrell-Giles, it was a career high. Uncharacteristically, Skinner had the low score after a little too much pop on her mount.
Tessen and Merrell-Giles then had some unusual mistakes on vault, where Tessen fell and Merrell-Giles struggled on her landing. However, Kari Lee (9.90) and Skinner (9.95) both had season-high vault scores to keep Utah in the hunt. After three events, UCLA led 98.750-98.600.
A big 49.550 floor performance shoved the Utes into a tie for the first time of the meet with both teams at 148.150. Skinner came oh-so-close to a 10.0 on floor, scoring a 9.975. Almost as good were Merrell-Giles and Missy Reinstadtler, who both scored 9.925s, while Lee added a 9.90.
Under incredible pressure on the final event, Utah’s six competitors did walk-through routines, starting with a 9.775 from Maddy Stover. The rest of the way, it was Merrell-Giles (9.925), Alexia Burch (9.850), Lee (9.875), Reinstadtler (9.825) and Skinner (9.925).