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Utah gymnastics: Freshman MyKayla Skinner leads Red Rocks over Michigan

Published January 10, 2017 8:13 am

College gymnastics • Freshman shines as Utes beat Michigan.
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Utah's gymnastics coaches placed freshman MyKayla Skinner in the deep parts of the uneven bars and balance beam lineups for Saturday's opener against Michigan, so as not to put too much pressure on the rookie.

But there was no way of hiding that Skinner is an immensely talented gymnast who has the potential to be another in the long line of Utah greats.

Skinner won the all-around and either won or tied for the win on three other events to help the No. 6 Utes defeat No. 7 Michigan 196.625-195.525 in front of 14,675 fans at the Huntsman Center on Saturday.



Skinner opened her college career by winning the vault with a 9.9. She was one of the few Utes who didn't falter on her landing. She competed third in the uneven bars, an event considered her weakest, but again emerged the victor, winning with another 9.9.

Skinner was second to teammate Baely Rowe on the balance beam, scoring 9.85 while Rowe won the event with a 9.925, but she capped off the meet with a final big performance, scoring 9.9 to tie MaKenna Merrell for the floor title. That effort also gave her the all-around title with a 39.55.

Skinner was still wide-eyed when she relived the meet shortly after it ended.

"It was so exciting for me, something different for me," said Skinner, an alternate on the 2016 Olympic team. "I can't really explain the feelings. We all worked as a team so it was the greatest feeling ever."

Skinner didn't join the Utes until October as she chose to participate in a post-Olympic tour. However, the shortened training season hasn't hurt her. If anything, she has had a chance to get a little rest as coaches have limited her reps, mindful of the busy year she had with the Olympic team.

Utah coach Tom Farden wasn't surprised at the debut Skinner had.

"She is a world-class athlete and I'm pleased she is with us," he said. "She went out there and showed us what she can do, naturally."

While the performance from Skinner was impressive, she wasn't the only one to shine Saturday.

Merrell lived up to her reputation as the most improved gymnast with a 39.425 in the all-around, and the Utes had solid showings throughout the uneven bars and beam lineups.

There were some missed landings on vault and a few miscues on floor, but Farden isn't worried about those mistakes at this point in the season, noting the Utes don't have a lot of reps with hard landings yet.

"It was a good starting point in terms of showing the strength we do have," he said. "I think we have incredible floor routines with some dynamic skills that are unique to Utah."

Michigan had bigger mistakes than the Utes, suffering two breaks on the uneven bars in the opening rotation. The Wolverines weren't able to threaten after that, thanks to Utah's 49.275 on the uneven bars put it ahead 98.375-97.425 at the halfway mark. —

Storylines

R Utah wins the season opener over Michigan behind the all-around performances of MyKayla Skinner and MaKenna Merrell, who scored 39.55 and 39.425, respectively.

• In her first meet back since tearing her Achilles tendon almost a year ago, sophomore Kari Lee has a bobble on the balance beam but recovers enough to score 9.8.

• Merrell either set or tied her career marks on all events.

Individual Winners

Vault • MyKayla Skinner (Utah) 9.9

Uneven bars • MyKayla Skinner (Utah) 9.9

Balance beam • Baely Rowe (Utah) 9.925

Floor • MaKenna Merrell (Utah) and MyKayla Skinner (Utah) 9.9

All-around • MyKayla Skinner (Utah) 39.55

 

 

 

 

 

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