SALT LAKE CITY — Two weeks ago, against the Penn State Nittany Lions, Utah gymnastics opened the 2018-19 season with a team score of 197.175. It was an elite score, and Utah was ranked No. 3 in the country as a result, behind only the Oklahoma Sooners and the UCLA Bruins.
The following week, this past weekend, the Red Rocks bested that score in the Deseret First Duel against the rival BYU Cougars.
It was against a much improved Cougar team and in Provo no less, but Utah recorded a score of 197.250 and walked away victorious.
The 2-0 start to the season isn’t anything new for the Red Rocks, since 1999 Utah has started 2-0 15 times, but back-to-back team scores of 197-plus is new. In fact it had never happened before in the history of the program.
“That is a stat I wouldn’t have really known, but it is impressive,” co-head coach Megan Marsden said. “Either we have started out (seasons) slow and then went up to a 197, or we scored a 197 and then dropped off a little bit, or we didn’t have 197’s in either meet.
“Anyway, it is significant. To do something that hasn’t been done in 40-some years of Utah gymnastics … that is impressive.”
SURPRISE DEBUT: Freshman Hunter Dula, a native of Orem, made her season-debut Friday night against the Cougars, on uneven bars. It was a surprise debut, as senior Kari Lee was initially slated to hold down a spot in the bars rotation.
The super senior wasn’t at her best in warmups, however, and ceded the spot to Dula.
“Bars has been the event that hasn’t been my best event, but I work hard on it and do my best to be ready on it,” Lee said. “I know my limits, my strengths and weaknesses. I was having a rough bar warmup and Hunter was on. She was doing amazing and I told (co-head coach) Tom (Farden), I think you should put her in.”
Farden did just that, and Dula recorded a 9.750 in her first collegiate routine.
“It was so exciting. It was kind of a last-minute decision to put me in, but it was so much fun to get out there and do what I have been working for all these years,” Dula said.
As for the last-minute change, Dula wouldn’t change a thing.
“I honestly don’t think it was that bad,” she said. “I didn’t have pressure before, so I didn’t overthink it. Having it last minute meant I didn’t have time to freak out.”
FUTURE NCAA CHAMP?: Freshman Adrienne Randall was one of the standouts in Utah’s victory over BYU. The freshman earned a 9.875 for her beam routine, a score that helped close out a strong and meet-sealing final rotation for the Red Rocks.
It was to be expected, according to Marsden, as Randall has future NCAA champion written all over her.
“She was recruited here to Utah partly because we felt she had potential in the all-around, but especially because we feel like she is a champion in the making on balance beam,” Marsden said. “She is very comfortable and confident on that event, works clean and has a signature move. You put those things together and as long as she can continue what she did in club gymnastics in college — so far she is — that sets you up for some big things on balance beam.”