Utah Gymnasts Put Up Season-High Performance To Place Third At NCAA Championships
FORT WORTH – The Utah gymnastics team left it all out on the floor Saturday afternoon, recording a season-high and the program's best score at the NCAA Championships in history to end the season in third place at Dickies Arena. Utah posted a 197.9875 to collect its best finish at the NCAA Championships since 2015.
Utah pushed it all day and had its best meet of the season as a unit. Utah hit 24-of-24 routines for the second-straight day and was the only team to go without a fall inside Dickies Arena over the two-day span. In the finals this afternoon, Utah kept it close wire to wire, but in the end placed third behind first-time national champions Michigan (198.250), who recorded the third-highest winning team score in NCAA history, and Oklahoma (198.1625), who placed second. Florida rounded out the final four with a score of 197.1375.
The Red Rocks started the day on the event that earned them a spot in the finals yesterday – the uneven bars. Utah could not have asked for a better start from the bars set after collecting a 49.425. Abby Paulson (9.8625) started the event strong, while Alani Sabado (9.8125) and Alexia Burch (9.8375) tallied solid scores to follow. Emilie LeBlanc continued the momentum and set up the final two teammates by scoring a 9.8875. Maile O'Keefe started what would be a terrific day in the all-around by scoring a 9.9375, which was then followed by Cristal Isa's 9.90.
Through the first rotation, Utah sat in third place behind the Sooners and Wolverines. Utah then earned the best beam score at NCAAs in program history with a whopping 49.700. Utah put up three-straight scores of 9.9375 after Isa, Paulson and Adrienne Randall rattled off the massive score one by one. O'Keefe then put the cherry on top with a meet-high 9.9875 to end the rotation. Lucy Stanhope tallied a career-high 9.90 in the second spot to round out the scorers, while Burch set the tone upfront with a 9.8625.
Despite the stellar beam set, Utah still sat in third place at the halfway mark after Oklahoma and Michigan continued to bring it as well. Floor was led by Jaedyn Rucker and O'Keefe who posted 9.925s, along with Sydney Soloski, who tallied a 9.8875. Randall (9.8625) and Paulson (9.875) rounded out the five scorers after Stanhope's mark of 9.85 went on to be dropped. With the floor set taking care of business, Utah continued to apply the pressure, but could not jump a spot in the standings. Heading into the final event, the Utes trailed first place by just 0.1625 points.
Utah needed a big push from vault to walk away with the national championship, but it wasn't in the cards this year as Michigan closed out a tremendous meet on beam to take the win, while Oklahoma's floor set pulled in a runner-up finish.
The Ute vaulters put up a 49.3875 after strong ends to the rotation by Rucker and Burch. Rucker won the vault title today with a career-high 9.9875 after sticking her second vault of the season at the perfect time. Burch also had a phenomenal Yurchenko 1.5 right after, collecting a 9.9375 after she stuck her vault as well. O'Keefe rolled in a 9.8375, Isa posted a 9.825, while Cammy Hall and Stanhope added 9.80s.
Utah ends the season with a Pac-12 Championship, Pac-12 Regular Season Championship, NCAA Regional win, and a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships as the only team to qualify for every NCAA Championship in history.
NCAA Championship Notes
- The third-place finish is the best since the 2015 season when Utah finished as the runner-ups.
- Utah scored its highest score at the NCAA Championships in program history today in the final with its 197.9875. The previous high was set in 2015 (197.800).
- Utah recorded its second-highest score at the NCAA Championships in program history in the national semifinals with a 197.600, and is now the third-highest after Saturday's final score.
- Utah's 49.700 on beam was the highest beam score at NCAAs in program history, topping the 49.450 mark set in 2002.
- Utah's 49.600 in the semifinal was its highest floor score at the NCAA Championships in program history.
- Maile O'Keefe became a two-time National Champion with titles on the uneven bars and floor in the semifinals to etch herself a spot in the record books. She is just the fifth Ute to win at least two event victories in the same night at the national championships, joining all-time greats Sue Stednitz (1982), Megan McCunniff Marsden (1984), Missy Marlowe (1992) and Theresa Kulikowski (1999).
- O'Keefe is the first Ute to win an NCAA title on the uneven bars since Georgia Dabritz did so in 2015, while she is the first Ute to win a national title on floor since MyKayla Skinner in 2017.
- Utah's 49.5125 on bars in the semifinal was its second-highest score at the NCAA Championships in program history.