Utes top state rivals at Best of Utah gymnastics meet

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah's Cammy Hall on the vault at the Best of Utah NCAA Gymnastics Meet in West Valley City on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020.

West Valley City • One of the main reasons for creating the Best of Utah gymnastics meet was to put the competitors in a postseason-like setting with a podium floor and chaotic atmosphere.

Utah’s young Utes rose to the challenge, winning the inaugural event on Saturday at the Maverik Center with 197 points. Brigham Young was second with a 195.575 followed by Southern Utah (194.65) and Utah State (194.15).

BYU’s Abbey Miner won the all-around with a 39.25, scoring 9.85 on the vault, 9.7 on the uneven bars, 9.825 on the balance beam and 9.875 on the floor.

That this Utah team was able to score a 197 so early in the season might have been a surprise to some fans, but not the gymnasts who insist they are going to be better than expected.

“It’s a big step to get a 197,” said senior Kim Tessen, who won the uneven bars and the floor exercise. “We were able to score 49 or higher on all the events, and our confidence is getting better as well. We feel good but we still have a lot to improve.”

The team made a lot of adjustments following Friday’s practice that carried over to the competition, Utah coach Tom Farden said.

“They did a good job competing under pressure,” he said. “With 14 new routines, I’m very proud of this team and excited for the season.”

Standing out for the Utes was their effort on beam, where they scored a 49.275, led by a 9.9 from freshman Abby Paulson and a 9.875 from Cristal Isa.

Utah is expected to be good on the beam this season with the influx of beam talent, but Farden wasn’t sure how the newcomers would handle the atmosphere Saturday.

He was thrilled with the effort.

“We did a good job picking up tenths here and there,” he said. “There was more of a rhythm in the meet and they were able to feed off each other’s routines.”

Tessen said it is a point of pride for the Utes to be good on the beam.

“A lot of people say that is the make it or break it event and we have worked hard in the offseason on it with a lot of pressure situations,” she said. “Our work is showing in competition.”

The Utes were solid throughout the meet, opening on the vault with a 49.175, led by a 9.85 from Tessen. Tessen also led the 49.225 uneven bars effort with a 9.95 while Isa had a 9.875.

As promised, Farden continued to tweak the lineups following the opener in an effort to find the right combinations. He flip-flopped Alexia Burch and Tessen on the vault, with Tessen anchoring the event on Saturday and flip-flopping Isa and Hunter Dula in the second and third spot on bars.

Beam remained the same but floor had a totally reworked lineup from the one that earned a 49.2 in the opener.

On Saturday, Isa led off instead of Burch and freshman Maile O’Keefe competed for the first time, sliding into the fourth spot. Tessen and Sydney Soloski remained in the fifth and sixth spots. The changes paid off with the Utes scoring 49.325.

“You have to go with your gut feeling on what is going to give you the best outcome,” he said. “We went off Friday’s practice and who was looking confident. Missy Reinstadtler was pushing to get in there too.”

O’Keefe competed in the all-around for the first time, scoring 39.125.

Karley McClain scored a 39.175 for SUU in the all-around. Utah State was led by a 9.875 from Autumn DeHarde on the beam and a 9.875 from Maia Fishwick on the bars.