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Utah gymnastics: Utes fifth at NCAA Championships as Oklahoma wins again

Published April 16, 2017 3:08 pm

Utah gymnastics • The Red Rocks struggle on their opening event and take fifth at the NCAA Championships.
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St. Louis • There are times when teams could be disappointed finishing in fifth place at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships, but not the Utah Utes, at least not this year.

The Utes, who scored a 196.5875 Saturday, just didn't have the big numbers, or the depth, to put up a real fight for the NCAA title.

However, they can take some consolation in knowing Oklahoma was simply untouchable. The Sooners won their second title in a row, scoring 198.3875, followed by LSU (197.7375), Florida (197.7), UCLA (197.2625), the Utes and Alabama (196.0).

Rather than being upset at the finish, senior Baely Rowe noted how well the Utes have fought through the adversity of injuries this year.

"I couldn't be more proud of this team," she said. "We had a goal and we made it back here to the Super Six and we gave it our best shot."

The Utes were hoping for an upset but needed to have their best meet of the season to do so.

In the end, they were solid, but not without some key mistakes.

The Utes opened the meet on the floor, an event that is normally one of their best. On Saturday the adrenalin of the NCAAs seemed too much for some of the Utes as both Tiffani Lewis (9.6375) and MaKenna Merrell (9.65) stepped out, leaving Utah with a 49.0625.

"We came out on floor with too much juice," Utah co-coach Tom Farden said. "That is the tricky thing about starting with that rotation."

MyKayla Skinner led the Utes with a 9.925 on floor, then led the Utes on the vault with a 9.8875 as Utah posted the same score as it did on the floor.

The key rotation came when the Utes were on the bars and the Bruins were on beam.

Utah posted a 49.3125, making it possible to overcome the Bruins, but they would have none of it as they scored 49.4875 on the beam, with Peng-Peng Lee earning a 10.0.

"UCLA had a great beam set and Oklahoma ran away with it," Farden said. "But this was a good learning experience for us."

Perhaps more than any other rotation, the bars showed the magnitude of the loss of Kari Lee the most.

Lee, who injured her ankle before regionals, tried to compete Saturday but couldn't stick the landing and scored 9.7.

Normally she earns in the 9.9 range. Her absence was also felt on the vault and balance beam as well, as the Utes just didn't have the depth to replace her.

The depth was lacking in large part because the Utes lost two of their top gymnasts, Sabrina Schwab and Kim Tessen, early in the season to injuries.

On beam, the Utes had an uncharacteristic fall from Rowe, putting little-used sophomore Shannon McNatt under pressure. McNatt, competing in place of Lee, scored 9.7625.

One can only wonder how the Utes had done if they'd had a healthy squad.

"We had a great season," Farden said. "Down three kids at the end and making the Super Six, they came out and competed their hearts out tonight."

The Utes have taken a lot of pride this season in being tenacious, but at the NCAAs tenacity can only take a team so far.

The good news is the Utes have all their gymnasts returning, except for Rowe.

"This team is only going to get better," Farden said. "We will have experience next year and we are going to add depth." —


R Utah has a solid performance but just can't earn the big numbers needed to contend for the title and finishes fifth at the NCAAs.

• The Utes open the meet on floor, with two stepouts on the way to a 49.0625 to put them behind the leaders early.

• Utah wanted to hit 24 of 24 routines, but has a fall on the balance beam by Baely Rowe to go along with the two stepouts.

Inside • For the first time this season, MyKayla Skinner does not win an event.






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