TEMPE, Ariz. — The Utah gymnastics team extended its record start to a season by rolling over No. 19 Arizona State, 197.375-195.825, in Wells Fargo Arena. The No. 4 Utes (4-0) have now topped 197 in all four meets.
Utah teams have started a season with a 197 three previous times (2004, 2005, 2018), but had never put together back-to-back 197s to start a season prior to this year. Utah’s 197.375 tonight in Tempe was also a season high.
Once again, co-head coach Tom Farden tinkered with the Ute lineups, including several last-minute changes. One change he planned failed to materialize, however. He wanted to rest star MyKayla Skinner on floor, but she talked her way into the lineup during warmups.
“We want to give MyKayla a needed rest, but she is just a competitor,” shrugged Farden. “We’re getting a lot of kids experience in competition, which combined with three straight road meets is going to help us in the end since the entire postseason is on the road.”
Skinner picked up wins in the all-around (39.600) and beam (9.925), and tied for first on bars with Missy Reinstadtler. Skinner has 14 wins this season, including every bar and all-around competition. She now has 91 career wins, which puts her in sole possession of fourth place all-time at Utah, moving her past Kristina Baskett and Georgia Dabritz who both had 88 wins.
Baskett, a former Ute All-American and NCAA champion, is now a volunteer assistant coach for ASU. Baskett’s full-time job is as a stunt woman and she recently finished filming the final season of "Game of Thrones," which airs in April.
MaKenna Merrell-Giles was right on Skinner’s heels in the all-around, placing second with a 39.575 and winning vault with a 9.90.
“We had a remarkable bar set to start the meet and finished with a clutch effort on beam,” said Farden. “We came out of the gates so high, I almost thought we pressed too much on vault and floor trying to match what we did on bars. After Alexia (Burch) had an uncharacteristic fall from the No. 2 position on beam, we didn’t cave and used a great team effort to finish strong.”
Utah kicked the meet off with its best bar set of the season, bolstered by 9.95 scores from Reinstadtler (a career high) and Skinner and a season-high 9.90 from Merrell-Giles. After the first rotation, Utah led ASU 49.500-49.050.
On the second rotation, Utah — the nation’s No. 1 vault team — wasn’t quite as sharp as in its first three meets, dipping below a 49.400 (49.275) for the first time this season. Merrell-Giles won the event with a 9.90 and after two rotations, Utah’s lead over ASU was 98.775-98.150.2 comments on this story
Sydney Soloski’s 9.925 and a 9.90 from Merrell-Giles highlighted a 49.325 floor set. Merrell-Giles earned her score completing her routine from her sophomore and junior seasons rather than this year’s version. Utah’s 49.325 on floor, combined with a 48.450 on beam from ASU, gave the Utes a big lead (148.100-146.600) going into beam.
Still, had Burch’s fall on beam been contagious, there was a mathematical chance Utah could fall behind. Instead, Merrell-Giles and Kari Lee posted back-to-back 9.875 scores, followed by a 9.825 from freshman Adrienne Randall and Skinner’s 9.925 to keep the fall from counting.
After three weeks on the road, Utah returns to the Huntsman Center next Friday, hosting Arizona at 7 p.m. in the Huntsman Center in Faculty/Staff Appreciation Night.