No. 4 Utah Continues Conference Winning Streak, Tops No. 9 Cal
SALT LAKE CITY – No. 4-ranked Utah gymnastics (8-1, 5-0 Pac-12) continued its undefeated run in Pac-12 Conference action on Friday night, keeping the winning streak alive after topping No. 9 California (4-1, 3-1 Pac-12) by a score of 197.375-197.125 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
The Red Rocks competed from behind until a momentum changing routine from Cristal Isa on beam sparked the Utes to complete the comeback and remain the only undefeated team in the conference.
"One of our goals as a program was to come out here and hit 24 routines," said head coach Tom Farden. "We just hadn't done that in a few meets and so that was really important to achieve this evening, especially as we round the corner into postseason form to give yourself the best mathematical probabilities to hit a big score."
Farden continued, "It was a tale of two halves. On vault, we just felt like they were pressing and going after those sticks, which we want those sticks, but they just have to let it happen a bit more. On bars, we are actually moving in the right direction and it was a good rotation in terms of collecting more sticks this week. Then after that as everyone saw, the confidence came out in the athletes and on beam and floor, they really showed what they are capable of."
Utah trailed Cal 98.475-98.425 after the first two rotations and after Utah's first two beam routines, Isa hopped on the beam and changed the momentum of the night in a matter of minutes. Isa nailed her triple series and from there owned the routine through its entirety and tied a career-high 9.95 – the highest score of the night to that point. Abby Paulson followed the lead of her teammate and scored Utah's second-straight 9.95.
Adrienne Randall followed with a 9.825 before Maile O'Keefe had a near-perfect routine once again and proved why she is ranked No. 3 in the nation on the event. O'Keefe took home her fifth beam title of the year with a 9.975 as the anchor this meet and with Lucy Stanhope's 9.80 in the second spot, the Utes scored a 49.500 to take the lead 147.925-147.675.
With just a bit of separation as the Utes headed to floor, Jaylene Gilstrap once again had an incredible leadoff routine and started the set with a 9.85. It went on to be the first of three-consecutive 9.85s for Utah as Paulson and Stanhope scored the same. The Golden Bears rattled off three-straight 9.875s to cut into the lead, but Utah's final three gymnasts hit and hit big to fend off Cal's late rally.
Jaedyn Rucker posted a career-high 9.95 in the fourth spot to mark her first collegiate event victory. O'Keefe wrapped up her night with a 9.875 on floor to win the all-around with a 39.525 over three Golden Bears. Sydney Soloski recorded her sixth-straight score of 9.90-plus on floor after a 9.925 to end the meet. Utah scored a 49.450 on floor, tying last week's season-high mark.
Utah began the night on vault and scored a 49.175 to trail Cal by 0.025 after the first rotation. Cammy Hall and Stanhope led the group with 9.875s, while the next high came from Rucker's 9.825. O'Keefe and Burch posted 9.80s to round out the five scorers.
The Ute bars team was able to improve from the first rotation, but were forced to compete from behind after Cal extended the lead from its vault set. Paulson and Alani Sabado started the set with 9.80s, while Burch and Emilie LeBlanc recorded back-to-back 9.85s. O'Keefe and Isa then matched scores as well, this time putting up 9.875s for Utah to earn a share of the bars title. The team scored a 49.250, which set the Utes back 0.050 behind the Golden Bears at the halfway point. Two beam routines passed before Isa electrified the arena and turned around the night for Utah with beam and floor propelling the team victory.
No. 4 Utah will look to complete its second-straight undefeated season in conference action and earn the Pac-12 regular season title outright when the team travels to Corvallis, Ore., to take on the Oregon State Beavers. The Utes and Beavers will compete at 5 p.m. PT/6 p.m. MT next Friday, March 5.