This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
There were the season-ending injuries, the subpar performances on some events, then the loss to Oregon State. To Utah fans, it might have seemed as if Utah's gymnastics season was coming apart a bit at the seams.
But if there were any doubts the Utes had lost some of their early-season fire, Saturday's display against No. 4 UCLA should have erased the fear.
The fifth-ranked Utes put together their best meet of the season to beat the Bruins 197.875-197.5 in front of 15,588 at the Huntsman Center.
Typical of recent meets with the Bruins that have made this rivalry one of the best in collegiate gymnastics, Saturday's contest was one routine after another of "what you can do I can do better, or at least match."
The Utes got breathing room after scoring a 49.4 on the balance beam to go into the final rotation ahead 148.2-147.95, but everyone knew the Bruins were too good to fade away.
They didn't, with the Bruins earning 9.9s and higher on the beam to keep the pressure on the Utes.
Utah responded with big routines of its own with MaKenna Merrell, Baely Rowe and MyKayla Skinner all scoring 9.95s.
Skinner's routine provided the final highlight with the freshman pumping up the crowd before she took the floor. She nailed the routine to clinch the meet for the Utes and also the all-around crown for herself with a 39.675.
"I like to get them pumped up and show them what we can do," she said. "We worked hard and I am trying to get that 10.0 floor routine. Hopefully I will get it one of these times."
The floor effort was enough to give the Utes a season-high 49.675 on the floor while the Bruins finished with a 49.55 on the balance beam.
The closeness of the meet made for an electric atmosphere, although not one that UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field liked.
Field was seething after the meet, saying several members of the crowd were "flipping off" her gymnasts.
"The rudeness of the crowd put a damper on things down there," Field said. "That kind of rudeness, I haven't even experienced that in the SEC. We had grown men coming down flipping off our gymnasts. You can flip me off, but don't do that to my athletes."
Field also wasn't happy with the judging, noting it was inconsistent for both teams.
"It should have been closer," she said.
Utah coach Tom Farden said he spoke briefly to Field after the meet but was unaware of the fans' actions.
"It's a college sport and sometimes emotions, fans have emotions too and feel an investment and don't always use their best judgement," he said. "If it did occur, I certainly feel bad."
What the Utes don't feel badly about was their own performance. Farden said the Utes' changed up their practice routines this week to shake things up. The tactic worked.
"We finally competed exactly how we trained," Utah junior Tiffani Lewis said. "We had a mock meet on Tuesday and it went well and it is exactly how it happened today."
R The Utes scored a season high to hand UCLA just its second loss of the season.
• MyKayla Skinner remained undefeated in the all-around, scoring 9.95 on the floor.
• All of Utah's counting scores on the floor were 9.9 or higher.