ST. LOUIS — With hopes to earn their 11th championship title, it was injuries that eventually caught up with the Red Rocks in Saturday’s Super Six.
The fourth-ranked team struggled with falls and going out-of-bounds when it needed its best performances. Utah relied on its depth all season with All-American and all-around gymnast Sabrina Schwab and freshman three-event starter Kim Tessen out with season-ending injuries. In addition, Kari Lee has been limited to competing on bars and not the all-around at regionals and nationals.
Utah finished fifth in the last meet of the season with a score of 196.5875. Oklahoma won its third and second-straight title with a 198.3875, the highest score ever in the Super Six. LSU (197.7375), Florida (197.7), UCLA (197.2625), Utah and Alabama (196.0) rounded out the standings.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” said senior Baely Rowe. “We had a goal to make it back to the Super Six and we made it. We gave it our best shot.”
Freshman superstar MyKayla Skinner finished her season with a 39.55 in the all-around. She competed in the all-around in every meet and didn’t fall once, hitting 56 of 56 routines.
Utah began its competition on floor, the team’s best event. Unfortunately, the Utes were forced to count MaKenna Merrell’s 9.65 as both she and Tiffani Lewis stepped out-of-bounds. Rowe and Skinner finished the lineup with 9.8375 and 9.925, respectively.
“We came out on floor with too much juice,” said Utah co-head coach Tom Farden. “That’s the tricky thing about starting with that rotation.”
The Red Rocks’ 49.0625 effort put them in fourth place once all teams competed an event. Oklahoma (49.5875) was in the lead, followed by LSU (49.325), Florida (49.3), Utah, UCLA (43.0) and Alabama (48.8875).
Vault was next for the Red Rocks. Skinner led the Utes again with 9.8875. Merrell (9.8125) and Lewis (9.375) also topped the lineup, while Rowe (9.775), Erika Muhaw (9.75) and Macey Roberts (9.75) all scored in the 9.7s.
The Utes rested on their first of two byes during the third rotation. At the meet’s midway point, after all teams competed on two apparatuses, the standings were Oklahoma (99.2875), Florida (98.8), LSU (98.625), UCLA (98.4375), Utah (98.125) and Alabama (97.5125).
Utah rejoined the competition on bars, hoping to put up big numbers unlike its first two events. The Red Rocks improved their score with a much-needed 49.3125. However, Lee’s injury proved to hurt the team. After suffering a high ankle sprain before regionals and tweaking it again Friday night in semifinals, she couldn’t stick the landing and scored 9.7 rather than her usual 9.9.
Rowe earned Utah’s highest bars score with 9.9. The rest of the lineup earned 9.8s, including Merrell (9.875), Lewis (9.85), Skinner (9.85) and Reinstadtler (9.8375).
The title was out of reach after every team competed three events. Oklahoma was untouchable as it dominated the competition with a 148.9 score. Florida (148.1625), LSU (148.0125), UCLA (147.925), Utah (147.4375) and Alabama (146.8375) followed.
“Oklahoma ran away with it," Farden said. "But this was a good learning experience for us."
The Red Rocks hoped for another strong set as they finished their competition in the fifth rotation. Instead, their event score dipped with 49.15 on beam. Skinner (9.8875) led the team while Reinstadtler’s 9.85, Stover’s 9.8375, Merrell’s 9.8125 and Shannon McNatt’s 9.7625 contributed to the team’s score. Rowe earned 9.125 after falling off the beam in her flight series, so her score was dropped. It was the first time the senior fell on the event this year. It put beam anchor McNatt, who replaced Lee, under a lot of pressure.
Utah’s second bye was during the sixth rotation, forcing the team to watch its opponents’ scores rise and see which place it would finish.
The good news for the Red Rocks is they will have all their gymnasts returning next year except for Rowe.
“We had a great season. Down three kids at the end and making the Super Six, they came out and competed their hearts out tonight,” said Farden.