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Clutch beam performance keeps Utes gymnastics undefeated on road at Cal

Clutch beam performance keeps Utes gymnastics undefeated on road at Cal

(Steve Griffin, KSL, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — As the fourth rotation began in Berkeley, California, Saturday afternoon, the gymnastics teams were deadlocked at 147.925. The No. 3-ranked University of Utah was facing off against No. 12 University of California in its home gym Haas Pavilion.

With the pressure of an undefeated season and an upset loss hanging in the balance, the Red Rocks crushed their competition on the balance beam.

First, Maile O’Keefe scored a 9.950, good enough for the top beam score of the meet. Then, Cristal Isa pegged a 9.000, tied for second. Not taking any chances, Adrienne Randall then pulled out the best beam score of her career, a 9.950 to tie O’Keefe for first place.

The Utes clung to a .175 advantage when Abby Paulson put the meet away with another 9.950 mark. The clutch performances sealed the balance beam rout that gave Utah the road victory 197.550 to 197.325.

It was the closest margin of victory of the season and the narrowest win since its opener against then-No. 12 Kentucky. With the win, Utah remains undefeated at 7-0, 3-0 in Pac-12 play, and picks up its first win at Cal since the 2016 season.

The Utes came out firing on the uneven bars to start the meet, where Kim Tessen scored a near-perfect 9.975 to take some pressure off the rest of the team, who knew they were in for a test against the Golden Bears.

Tessen, the senior who attended Mountain View High School in Orem, recorded not only the best mark of her career, but a higher score than any career high of the entire Utah team. With Tessen’s help, Utah edged out Cal in uneven bars 49.425 to 49.375.

The second rotation was a different story, however. Unable to put together consistent scores at the top of the leaderboard, Utah fell to Cal in the vault exercise 49.200 to 49.075. That made for Utah’s lowest vault score of the season as they approached the midway point in the year.

Although Saturday was just the second road meet for the Red Rocks, the previous week against No. 21 Arizona in Tucson saw the highest vault score of their season. Two consecutive weeks on the road is tough for any team, but it didn’t appear to have taken a toll on Utah Saturday.

Despite being outscored overall on vault, the Utes’ Alexia Burch notched a 9.900, the top score for both teams in the exercise. It was a rebound for Burch, who received a disappointing 9.775 last week against Arizona.

As the third rotation unfolded, it was apparent every performance was going to dictate the final result. Midway through, as Utah performed floor routines and Cal took on the balance beam, the head-to-head score between teams bobbed back and forth. Then, Tessen, typically solid on the floor, received a less-than-stellar 9.150. She was picked up by her teammates, though. Sydney Soloski, the Canadian junior, scored a 9.925 to even things out, giving Utah a final advantage on the floor of .025.

Utah returns home where the team will face another tough Pac-12 foe in Oregon State, currently ranked No. 22. The meet is slated to begin at 1 p.m.

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