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Holli Joyce,

Season-best beam effort wasn’t enough as No. 6 Utah falls short of No. 8 Georgia

By Holli Joyce, Contributor | Posted - Mar 16th, 2019 @ 6:44pm

ATHENS, Ga. — The sixth-ranked Utah gymnastics team entered its last regular-season meet looking for a big road score to help its postseason seeding.

The Red Rocks accomplished their goal with its best away score of the season earning 197.450, but were edged by No. 8 Georgia’s 197.525.

“This was a meet of two powerhouse teams going head to head and we didn’t flinch,” Utah co-head coach Tom Farden said.

MaKenna Merrell-Giles and MyKayla Skinner were the highlights of Utah’s performance. Skinner placed first in the all-around (39.675) and on floor (9.975) while Merrell-Giles had the best beam routine (9.95) and placed second in the all-around (39.60).

As if the event hasn’t been the team’s nuisance all season, Utah took to beam in the last rotation in hopes of making a comeback. Utah’s effort was impressive as the lineup put together a season-high 49.425 on the event. But what cost the Red Rocks in Stegeman Coliseum was, ironically, its best two events — vault and floor.

The nation’s second-ranked vault squad suffered from its landings with hops and steps, resulting in a 49.325. The Red Rocks performed better than the Gymdogs on floor, but their 49.375 was well below its regional qualifying score of 49.42.

“We tried too hard on vault and floor and didn’t stick landings,” Farden said.

Utah started its day on bars with a 49.325 effort. The lineup was highlighted by Merrell-Giles and Skinner’s 9.90s. After the first rotation, Georgia (49.475) took a lead it would never give up.

The Red Rocks could’ve made a difference on vault had they stuck their landings. But even with a disappointing vault performance, Utah cut Georgia’s lead to 98.75-98.65 thanks to Skinner’s impressive 9.925.

The uncharacteristic mistakes followed Utah to the third rotation. The first four gymnasts to compete on floor couldn’t cleanly land their tumbling passes, but Merrell-Giles (9.90) and Skinner (9.975) rallied the team with brilliant performances. Despite their troubles, Utah was close behind after three rotations 148.175-148.025.

Utah had one more try to catch Georgia and needed to avoid mishaps on beam. Kari Lee started the lineup with a solid 9.90. Adrienne Randall and Skinner gave the team 9.875s while Merrell-Giles shined in her career-best routine, earning 9.95. Even with its best effort on beam this season, Utah couldn’t catch up as Georgia put together a 49.35 on floor.

“We were really pleased with our efforts on beam and bars where we continue to improve,” Farden said. “It was nice to see the intricate events shine today.”

Next for Utah is the Pac-12 Championship on Saturday, March 23. As a top seed, the Red Rocks will compete in the 6 p.m. session.

Holli Joyce

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