SALT LAKE CITY — The Huntsman Center was filled with emotion as Utah gymnastics competed in its last home meet of the season Friday night, and it fueled the Red Rocks to improve their record (10-1, 5-1 Pac-12) as the fifth-ranked team defeated Stanford (6-8, 3-4), 197.50-196.275.
Not only did the night pull the heart-strings of the 15,558 roaring fans, but also Baely Rowe’s. The team’s lone senior, who was honored in a pre-meet ceremony, wore her heart on her sleeve as she teared up after her beam routine and again after she concluded the meet with her floor exercise.
The two-time NCAA Championships’ All-American and reigning Pac-12 beam champion performed her best of the season, scoring 39.65 in the all-around to tie with teammate MyKayla Skinner for first place — something no other gymnast has done this year.
“It was one of the best nights I’ve ever had,” said Rowe. “I was trying to approach it like any other meet and not what I had to do to be perfect. I wanted to have fun and enjoy this moment and remember this amazing team.”
Emotions also ran high when Skinner logged a perfect 10.0 on floor. The freshman’s performance put fans on their feet in a deafening celebration.
“I have been waiting to compete in college forever and it was so fun,” said Skinner of her perfect floor performance.
“MyKayla has been waiting for that 10.0 all season,” said Utah co-head coach Tom Farden. “She has a chip on her shoulder that I think she will have for her whole gymnastics career, and she knocked it out of the park tonight.”
In addition to the all-around, Rowe and Skinner worked to make sure a Ute won every event. Rowe locked in an event win on beam (9.875), her favorite apparatus where she performs her famous and fan-favorite moonwalk. Skinner earned wins on vault (9.95) — where she remains undefeated — bars (9.95), and floor.
The Red Rocks led the entire meet, starting with a 49.425-49.125 edge after the first rotation. Their 49.425 vault effort tied their season-best. Skinner and Rowe (9.90) led the Utes. Shannon McNatt competed to count for the second straight week and dramatically improved from last week at Arizona State. She scored 9.875, while Kari Lee and MaKenna Merrell pulled in 9.85s.
Next for Utah was bars, where Rowe and Skinner continued to shine. They both repeated their 9.95 and 9.90 scores from vault. The Utes led 98.725-98.25 at the meet’s midway point.
Beam was a wild set for the Red Rocks. Missy Reinstadtler was forced to step up after Merrell fell in the second spot of the lineup. The freshman did exactly what she needed to, scoring 9.80. Skinner nearly fell on the 4-inch beam, too, but somehow turned a big wobble into a dance move. It immediately brought the crowd to its feet. She earned a season-low 9.75, but made up for it with her 10.0 on floor to stay undefeated in the all-around.
“I had trouble in warm-ups and I was thinking too much on the beam. I got tight after MaKenna fell and didn’t want to fall. I was trying my hardest to do whatever it takes to stay on the beam, so I added moves,” admitted Skinner. She also joked that she might want to keep that move in her routine.
With one rotation left, Stanford wasn’t far behind Utah as the score was 147.825-147.325. However, it was Skinner and Rowe who ignited the Red Rocks to victory. After Skinner’s jaw-dropping performance, Rowe took to the floor. She anchored the lineup, an annual tribute coaches do for the seniors. She set up a stunning 9.975 routine, drawing a standing ovation from the fans.
Next for Utah is a regular-season finale at No. 8 Georgia Saturday, March 11.