Team Beam dominate as Red Rocks erase early woes to advance to Regional Finals

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Utah’s Alexia Burch thanks fans during senior night at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 4, 2022. (Mengshin Lin, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — There couldn’t be any more mistakes for the top-seeded Red Rocks at Thursday night’s Seattle Regional.

After two shaky first rotations on floor and vault, the Red Rocks found themselves in an unusual position midway through the regional meet at Alaska Airlines Arena. No Utah team had ever failed to qualify for the Nationals, but suddenly there was a risk of not even making the Regional Finals on Saturday.

The list of gymnasts of 2022 did not want to be the first.

But when Grace McCallum came off the low bar on a transition to the uneven bars in second position, the risk of dropping the encounter became even more real. But the Red Rocks fought back to finish strong on bars and capped the evening on beam with a score of 49.700 – no gymnast scored below 9.90 on beam – to win the competition.

The Red Rocks finished with a team score of 197.800 to finish in first place, and were followed in a surprise by Stanford with a 197.450 in second. Cardinal entered the region needing to beat San Jose State in Wednesday night’s play-off to advance to Round 2 on Thursday. Stanford used that momentum to claim second place on the night and advance to the Regional Finals in a stunner.

Utah and Stanford advance to the regional finals on Saturday (6 p.m. MDT, ESPN+) where they will meet Alabama (197.900) and Michigan State (197.325), who took the top two spots in the previous session. from the Seattle area.

No. 13 Oregon State (197.425), who were scheduled to join the Red Rocks in the regional final, and Illinois (197.375) were the two teams eliminated from the second session, and Washington (197.175) and BYU (196.625 ) were eliminated from the first session.

“We thought the start we would have liked to see a bit stronger start in terms of legs and a bit more pop; but the story of two halves, I thought about the complex events, the athletes settled , a really nice bar score, and then obviously an amazing score on the balance beam to get us home,” said Utah head coach Tom Farden. “So super proud of everyone.

“They don’t call it March Madness for nothing.”

Heading into the final rotation of the evening, only 0.150 points separated the four teams in a tightly contested encounter. The Red Rocks pulled themselves out of a hole after a fourth-place start and controlled a slim .025 lead over Illinois going into their strongest test of the season.

The Red Rocks entered the competition as the top beam team in the nation, but a win was anything but certain. In three losses this season, Utah has seen several athletes fall off the balance beam with unusual falls. Thursday night couldn’t be like any of their previous losses, even with the pressure at its highest.

British Olympian Amelie Morgan set the tone early from the top position and scored a 9.90 – exactly the chance to provide the momentum the Red Rocks needed. McCallum was expected to move into second, but he was eliminated at the last minute by the coaching staff and was replaced by Adrianne Randall. The eldest did exactly what she needed to do and followed Morgan’s 9.90 score with one of her own.

It was a welcome surprise after a season-ending stumble on beam that kept her out of beam training ever since.

“We think as a staff, athletes are in different places at different times,” Farden said. “We used her for floor exercises and she was in a good headspace, then coming back to the balance beam we saw her warming up aggressively. And as everyone knows , she has some of the toughest moves in the NCAA at this event and they were perfect and so we made the decision.”

Alexia Burch upped the ante in third place and shot a career-tying 9.950 to show the Red Rocks weren’t going to concede an inch to close out the night. Burch was credited with turning the competition around in the third rotation after scoring a career-high 9.950 on bars after McCallum tripped. The night was Burch’s and she gave birth at the most important time.

“She was in a good space and I commend her for having a good rhythm throughout the night, good patience and making the right choices choosing confidence before leaving,” Farden said of of Burch. “His overall presence was just fantastic, and I think the team took a lot of that from that.”

Cristal Isa and Kara Eaker added to the dominance and followed Burch’s 9.950 score with a pair of 9.950 scores. By the time Eaker’s score was posted, the Red Rocks had done enough to win the competition.

But Maile O’Keefe, who finished second to Oregon State’s Jade Carey in the all-around, added his own score of 9.950 in the anchor position to avoid confusion over the beam team’s dominance – even with two replacements in the range.

“We have a lot of weapons on beam, and testing our depth and using two athletes who aren’t normally in the rotation who both score 9.95 and 9.90 says a lot about their preparation,” said Farden.

“In those times when the competition is on the line and we’re going to the balance beam, we really try to train the athletes to let their gymnastics happen in those times, and we couldn’t be more proud of the work that has gone into it. been done there.”

It was a fitting end to the night, especially one that had started with uncertainty.

The Red Rocks opened the evening on the floor and Jaedyn Rucker and Grace McCallum scored 9.90, but the remaining scores were below their traditional scores, including an unusual score of 9.775 from senior Sydney Soloski, who went out of bounds on his first pass. of the night. The team finished with a score of 49.300 but in fourth place and a lot of work to do in the last three rotations.

O’Keefe and Lucy Stanhope boosted the team with consecutive 9.90s to start on vault, but the Red Rocks were forced to take Rucker’s 9.775 after Cammy Hall took a big step in forward when he landed and scored a 9.750. But it was Burch, again, whose 9.950 in fourth place cemented better positioning for the team as the Red Rocks moved up to third after the second rotation.

Survive and move forward.

To note: The Red Rocks were without Abby Paulson on Thursday, who was scratched overnight after injuring her back during pre-competition warm-ups. Farden said she is being evaluated and her status for Saturday is unknown.

Team scores (second session)

No. 4 Utah

  • Floor (49.300)
  • Vault (98.625, 49.325)
  • Bars (148.100, 49.475)
  • Beam (197.800, 49.700)

Stanford

  • Beam (49.350)
  • Floor (98.775, 49.425)
  • Vault (148.000, 49.225)
  • Bars (197.450, 49.450)

No. 13 Oregon State

  • Vault (49.325)
  • Bars (98.475, 49.150)
  • Beam (147.950, 49.475)
  • Floor (197.425, 49.475)

Illinois

  • Bars (49.400)
  • Beam (98.775, 49.375)
  • Floor (148.075, 49.300)
  • Vault (197.375, 49.225)

Red Rocks Individual Scores

1st Rotation: Ground (49.300)

  • Jaylene Gilstrap: 9,800
  • Adrianne Randall: 9,800
  • Jaedyn Rucker: 9,900
  • Grace McCallum: 9,900
  • Maile O’Keefe: 9,900
  • Sydney Soloski: 9.775

2nd Round: Jump (49.325)

  • Maile O’Keefe: 9,900
  • Lucy Stanhope: 9,900
  • Jaedyn Rucker: 9.775
  • Alexia Burch: 9,950
  • Grace McCallum: 9,800
  • Cammy Hall: 9,750

3rd round: Bars (49.475)

  • Amelie Morgan: 9,900
  • Grace McCallum: 9,400
  • Alexia Burch: 9,950
  • Sage Thompson: 9,850
  • Maile O’Keefe: 9,900
  • Crystal Isa: 9.875

4th Rotation: Beam (49.700)

  • Amelie Morgan: 9,900
  • Adrianne Randall: 9,900
  • Alexia Burch: 9,950
  • Crystal Isa: 9.950
  • Kara Eaker: 9,950
  • Maile O’Keefe: 9,950

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Josh is the athletic director of KSL.com and editor of athletics at the University of Utah – primarily football, men’s basketball and gymnastics. He is also an Associated Press top 25 voter for college football.

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