Utah’s struggles in Georgia continue as Red Rocks suffer fourth straight loss to Gym Dogs in Athens
(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) MyKayla Skinner competes on the uneven bars for the Utes, in Gymnastics action at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, Saturday, March 2, 2019.
An all-around win by MyKayla Skinner plus a season high on the balance beam weren’t enough for Utah’s sixth-ranked gymnastics team to fend off No. 8 Georgia on Saturday as the Gym Dogs edged Utah 197.525-197.45 in Athens, Ga.
The loss marked the fourth in a row for the Utes in Athens, dating back to their last win in 2011.
Utah knew it would be in for a difficult meet Saturday since it was Senior Night for Georgia and the contest played out as expected, with both teams having few breaks.
Georgia was just a bit better, Utah coach Tom Farden acknowledged.
“To come to SEC country and walk away with a close loss, you really don’t see a difference between the teams,” he said. “That is pretty good, but this is the time of year where the top teams aren’t going to flinch. We kind of bookended the meet a little with bars and beam going really well and wishing we could have done a little better on vault and floor.”
The Utes trailed Georgia 98.75-98.65 at the halfway mark, after they scored 49.325s on the vault and the uneven bars.
MaKenna Merrell-Giles and Skinner both scored 9.9s on the bars, and Skinner led the vaulting effort with a 9.925.
However, vaulting lacked the clean hits from the rest of the lineup, resulting in 9.85s and 9.8s for the remainder of the lineup.
While those scores were good, the Utes needed to up their game in the second half of the meet to have a chance to beat the Gym Dogs.
Unfortunately, the Utes didn’t do so. Utah had a 9.975 from Skinner on the floor and Merrell-Giles had a 9.9, but the rest of the lineup was 9.85 or lower thanks to some small breaks such as steps on landings.
The Utes had a 49.375 in the event but Georgia was even better on the balance beam, scoring a 49.425 on beam to extend its lead.
It would have been easy for the Utes to cave in the final rotation where they competed on the balance beam while Georgia was on the floor.
However, Utah instead posted a 49.425 on the beam, its season high, with Merrell-Giles scoring 9.95 and Kari Lee a 9.9.
Georgia didn’t break, though, finishing the meet with a 49.35 on the floor.
Still, the strong finish on beam was encouraging for Farden since it marked the third week in a row the Utes have been strong on the once inconsistent event.
“It was a hostile environment and it is going to prepare us for the Pac-12 Championships and beyond,” he said. “We didn’t back down so we are making strides.
Vault: Rachel Lukacs (Georgia) 9.95
Uneven bars: Marissa Oakley (Georgia) 9.925
Balance beam: MaKenna Merrell-Giles (Utah) 9.95
Floor: MyKayla Skinner (Utah) 9.975
All-around: MyKayla Skinner (Utah) 39.675
Merrell-Giles won the beam with her 9.95 and Skinner won the all-around and floor. Skinner’s 39.675 included a 9.975 on the floor, 9.925 on the vault, 9.9 on the bars and 9.875 on the beam. Merrell-Giles was second in the all-around with a 39.6.
“Those two continue to be incredible for us,” Farden said. “They continue to bring in the big scores and are the foundation.”