PROVO — Forty consecutive victories.
That was what the Red Rocks were aiming for Friday night at the Marriott Center on the campus of Brigham Young University.
Utah had defeated the rival Cougars 39 straight times in gymnastics, including multiple wins a season ago, and yet there were moments in the Deseret First Duel where that run, as impressive as it had been, appeared in jeopardy.
A slow start by the Utes, coupled with a strong outing by the Cougars, put pressure on the Red Rocks early and continued strong outings by Cougar gymnasts kept said pressure on most of the night.
Led by MyKayla Skinner, as well as clutch performances by the likes of Macey Roberts and Adrienne Randall, Utah thrived under threat of defeat, however, and upended BYU once again.
The Utes defeated the Cougars 197.250-196.475.
“I think this overall score is good. It wasn’t the start we were looking for, that confident and aggressive start you want, but I was happy with the recovery. This team fought through the night.”
Utah co-head coach Tom Farden
Skinner claimed the all-around title with a 39.600 and tied her career-high on vault with a 9.975. Roberts recorded a career-high of her own (9.900), also on vault, as did sophomore Alexia Burch (9.875). Randall, meanwhile, anchored the Utah beam rotation and her career-high of 9.875 sealed the win.
“I think this overall score is good,” Utah co-head coach Tom Farden said. “It wasn’t the start we were looking for, that confident and aggressive start you want, but I was happy with the recovery. This team fought through the night.”
“We went toe for toe with them,” BYU head coach Guard Young added. “We needed a crack and they didn’t give us one. I think we showed everyone in the arena that we belonged out there tonight.”
Utah started on uneven bars, BYU on vault, and it was clear early on that something was off with the Red Rocks.
Kim Tessen, usually steady on bars, failed to stick her landing as the leadoff gymnast. Freshman Hunter Dula, thrust into the rotation at a moments notice — senior Kari Lee was expected to go on bars before the meet, but was replaced by Dula because “she didn’t have the swing and rhythm on bars that I wanted,” Farden said — then recorded a 9.750 in her Utah debut.
MaKenna Merrell-Giles, Missy Reinstadtler, Cristal Isa and MyKayla Skinner did well enough — Skinner’s 9.875 tied her with BYU’s Shannon Evans for the best score on bars — but at the end of one rotation, the teams were neck and neck.
The Red Rocks responded in a big way on vault, however.
Lee led off with a 9.850 and two vaults later Roberts pulled off the best vault of her career.
“I have been waiting for Macey to do that for forever,” said Skinner. “She has been doing it in the gym so it was fun to see it happen in a meet.”
“When you land, when you stick it, you just get a feeling inside,” Roberts added. “It is the best feeling ever.”
Roberts gave way to Burch, who was followed by Merrell-Giles (9.900) and Skinner. At the end of the rotation, the Red Rocks had earned a 49.500.
“We had a 49.500, that is an incredible vault score,” said Farden. “I thought the kids attacked the vault and really got some amplitude.”
“We knew we had to step it up and give it our all,” Roberts added. “I think that is what pushed us. It pushed me for sure to find that landing and make them give us the scores.”
The Utes carried momentum from vault to floor — Skinner earned a 9.950 in leading Utah to a 49.400 on floor — and from floor to balance beam.
It was on beam, from the fifth spot in the rotation, that Randall, a freshman, rose to the occasion.
“I feel so comfortable doing beam,” said Randall. “There is just something about it, I am so confident in myself. I know I have done the training.”
Randall’s routine was necessary because of the Cougars own success on beam.
The hosts put on a show on the apparatus. Abbey Miner and Natasha Marsh each scored a 9.900, Abbey Boden a 9.875 and Helody Cyrenne a 9.850.
The Cougars earned a 49.325, the fifth best beam score in program history.
“We had a plan on beam,” Evans said. “We’ve had a plan for a long time and we did exactly what we said we were going to do.”
The 196.475 was the best season-opener in BYU history and a benefit to both teams.
“It was good for us,” said Roberts. “They brought their A game and it was good to push us, to make us give it our all.”
“It was something really special,” Evans added. “I have competed against Utah two times now and rotated with them at nationals. In the past, I did not feel that we were up there with them, but tonight we were flying with them.”
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