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No. 4 Utah Gymnasts Set For Season Opener Friday at Rio Tinto Best of Utah NCAA Gymnastics Meet

Jan 3, 2022

MEET WEEK
The preseason No. 4-ranked Utah gymnastics team will open the 2022 season at the third annual Rio Tinto Best of Utah NCAA Gymnastics Meet this Friday, Jan. 7. The podium event featuring all four of Utah's Division I gymnastics programs – Utah, Brigham Young, Southern Utah, and Utah State – will begin at 7 p.m. MT at the Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah. The meet will be televised on BYUtv, as well as broadcast live on ESPN 700 radio. Live stats will be available here. Tickets to the quad meet can be purchased through the Maverik Center.
 
QUICK STICKS
• No. 4 Utah will begin the podium event on beam, while No. 19 BYU starts on floor, No. 25 Southern Utah on bars, and Utah State on vault.
• Utah won the inaugural Rio Tinto Best of Utah (2020) and repeated as the winners last season. The Utes have scored a 197.000 and 196.900 at the quad meet in the previous two contests.
• Utah holds a 58-6 record in season openers.
• Head coach Tom Farden enters his seventh year as head coach of the program and his 12th overall. He boasts a career record of 127-37-1 at Utah.
• Utah was ranked fourth in the WCGA Preseason Poll, which marks the fifth-straight season the Utes have landed in the top-five.
• Utah will face nine teams ranked in the top-25, including five opponents ranked inside the top-10.
 
CHALK TALK
• Utah returns 23-of-24 routines from last year's third place NCAA Championship finishers. Twelve letterwinners return from the team that won its second-straight Pac-12 Regular Season Championship, fourth Pac-12 Championship, and an NCAA Regional title a year ago.
• Headlined by two-time national champion Maile O'Keefe, the Utes return five All-Americans from last year. O'Keefe heads into her junior season as a seven-time All-American and is joined by senior Cristal Isa (four-time All-American), fifth year senior Sydney Soloski (4x), junior Abby Paulson (2x) and Alexia Burch (1x).
• O'Keefe was the 2021 Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year, while Burch was named the Pac-12 Specialist of the Year. Utah had seven All-Pac-12 selections last season, which included all five All-Americans along with Jaedyn Rucker and Cammy Hall.
• Utah mixes in four freshman to the 2022 roster, welcoming Olympic silver medalist Grace McCallum, Olympic bronze medalist Amelie Morgan, Olympic alternate Kara Eaker and uneven bars national champion Sage Thompson. 
 
RANKING REWIND
The Red Rocks finished the 2021 season ranked third in the nation on beam (49.588 NQS) and tied for fourth on floor (49.500 NQS) with every routine set to return this year. Also finishing in the top-10 was Utah's vaulters at seventh in the country. Leading the Red Rocks, Maile O'Keefe ended the regular season tied for first in the nation on beam with a 9.975 NQS, while posting the highest average score in the country with a 9.940. O'Keefe also ended her sophomore campaign tied for sixth in the country in the all-around and No. 11 on bars. Abby Paulson finished tied for sixth on beam (9.95 NQS), while Sydney Soloski led the floor team at eighth in the nation (9.95 NQS). Alexia Burch finished No. 10 on vault last year, while Cristal Isa was No. 13 on beam and No. 17 on bars to round out the ranked Utes.

SERIES SHORTS
• Utah leads BYU 101-2 in the all-time series and is undefeated on a neutral floor (27-0).
• Utah holds a 27-0 mark in the all-time series over Southern Utah and has picked up eight wins at neutral sites.
• Utah leads Utah State 92-3 in the history between the two teams and is 24-1 on a neutral floor.
 
SCOUTING BYU
Coach: Guard Young (7th season)
2022 Preseason Ranking: 19
2021 Final Ranking: 19
Notes:  BYU earned its second-straight Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference Championship in 2021 … Averaged a 196.656 last season, improving from its 196.228 average the year before … Returns All-MRGC floor selection Brittney Vitkauskas, who was the MRGC Floor Specialist of the Year, as well as four other All-MRGC selections from 2021.
 
SCOUTING SUU
Coach: Scott Bauman (31st year)
2022 Preseason Ranking: 25
2021 Final Ranking: 23
Notes: Southern Utah is coming off its eighth-straight trip an NCAA Regional … Posted a program-record 197.275 last season against Utah State … Key returners include Karley McClain, who finished No. 33 in the nation in the all-around, and Aubri Schwartze, who was named the 2021 MRGC Freshman of the Year … Morgan Alfaro was named Co-Vault Specialist of the Year last season.
 
SCOUTING UTAH STATE
Coach: Amy Smith (5th year)
2022 Preseason Ranking: 26
2021 Final Ranking: 25
Notes: Utah State competed at its first NCAA Regional since the 2017 season last year and went on to finish No. 25 in the nation, which was the program's best finish since 1999 … The Aggies return 11 gymnasts from 2021 and welcome seven freshmen … Highlighting the returners is Sofi Sullivan, who was the 2020 MRGC Freshman of the Year and Co-Beam Specialist of the Year.

TICKET TIME
Season tickets are on sale now with limited lower bowl seats available, as well as an upgrade process available for those with season tickets looking to move seats. Visit Utah Tickets to get your tickets now and ensure your spot at all five home meets this season. White balloons at the Red Rocks Preview will designate lower bowl inventory for 2022 season tickets seats still available. Single meet tickets are also available here.
 
UP NEXT
No. 4 Utah will turn its attention to the 2022 home opener next Friday, Jan. 14, welcoming last year's runner-ups Oklahoma to the Jon M. Huntsman Center. The Utes and third-ranked Sooners will battle at 7:30 p.m. MT on ESPN2 in Salt Lake City.