ST. LOUIS — Despite injuries throughout the season, the Utah gymnastics team earned a spot in the Super Six.
The Red Rocks faced adversity during the afternoon semifinal, but a strong beam and floor set launched them in the standings to earn third place and a spot in Saturday’s national championship final. It marks the 20th time the Utes have advanced to the Super Six. Joining Utah is Oklahoma (197.725) and UCLA (197.50). Washington (196.5625), Denver (196.475) and Oregon State’s (196.3625) season ended.
MyKayla Skinner scored the semifinal-high in the all-around with 39.6125. She also scored meet highs on vault (9.90) and floor (9.9625).
"MyKayla competes with such confidence that it carries over to the rest of the team," said Utah co-head coach Tom Farden.
With the favored Olympic rotation, the Red Rocks started its competition on vault. Nerves stood in the way as landings included wobbles and hops. Tiffani Lewis (9.85) and MyKayla Skinner (9.90) finished the lineup with the team’s high vault scores, adding to its 49.0875 event score.
Utah’s effort in the first rotation earned it the third spot with Oregon State once every team competed on an apparatus. UCLA led with 49.3625, followed by Oklahoma (49.35), Utah (49.0875), Oregon State (49.0875), Washington (49.0375) and Denver (48.9875).
"We were a little tight on vault and bars," Farden said. "I told the team after bars that we had 12 routines down and 12 still to go, and to just relax and trust themselves."
The Utes took a bye in the second rotation but rejoined the competition in the third rotation on bars. Skinner and Baely Rowe locked in the team’s high scores with 9.8375s. Lewis (9.825) and Merrell (9.8125) also scored in the 9.80 range. Utah hoped to drop Reinstadtler’s 9.775 she earned from over-arching a handstand. Instead, the freshman’s score counted as anchor Kari Lee, who’s suffering a high ankle sprain, buckled her knees on her dismount and resulted in a 9.6625.
At the meet’s midway point, Utah was in fifth place. UCLA (98.725) kept its lead, followed by Oklahoma (98.70), Denver (98.225), Washington (98.225), Utah (98.175) and Oregon State (98.0875).
Utah took to beam knowing there was little room for error. The fourth-ranked team needed big scores to have any chance at advancing to the Super Six. The Red Rocks dropped their nerves and did what they needed to do.
Maddy Stover got things started with a solid 9.85, which would be Utah’s lowest beam score to count. MaKenna Merrell, Rowe and regional beam champion Shannon McNatt followed with a 9.90, 9.875 and 9.85 respectively. Skinner earned Utah’s highest beam score with a stunning 9.9125 routine.
The Utes’ beam effort served them well as they launched into third place after every team competed in three events. UCLA (148.2625) continued to stand in first, followed by Oklahoma (148.225), Utah (147.5625), Washington (147.5375), Denver (147.175) and Oregon State (147.0)
With one rotation left, the Red Rocks knew it needed big numbers on floor — the team’s best event. Macey Roberts got the Utes’ started with an energetic 9.85. Scores continued to climb with Lewis’ 9.85, Merrell’s 9.90, Rowe’s 9.925, and Skinner’s phenomenal 9.9625. Utah’s 49.4875 on floor was its highest event score of the day.
The remaining three spots in the Super Six will be determined in the second semifinal Friday at 6 p.m. MST on ESPNU and ESPN, when LSU, Florida, Michigan, Alabama, Georgia and Nebraska will compete. The Super Six is scheduled to start Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.