Utah’s sixth-ranked gymnastics team didn’t have its best meet, but even an average effort was good enough to easily advance the Utes to the finals of their NCAA Regionals in Baton Rouge, La.
The Utes won their session with a 196.8. Minnesota was second with a 196.3, Arkansas third with a 196.175 and BYU was fourth with a 195.55.
Utah and Minnesota advanced to Saturday’s finals at 6 p.m. MDT where they will meet the top two finishers of Friday evening’s session that includes LSU, Auburn, Arizona State and George Washington.
Saturday’s meet will be carried by SECN+ and ESPN 700 radio.
The top two teams from Saturday’s finals advance to the NCAA Championships April 19-20 in Fort Worth, Texas.
The judging was tight in the afternoon session, leading to Utah’s lowest score of the season, even though the Utes went 24 for 24 in routines.
Utah coach Tom Farden was satisfied with the team’s effort, noting the Utes achieved the main goal of moving on.
“We weren’t as perfect as we could be, but I’m happy,” he said. “We came out a little tighter than normal, but we were on different equipment and in a different environment.”
Junior MyKayla Skinner led the Utes Friday with a 39.525 in the all-around, a score that netted her third regional all-around title. Her best mark was a 9.925 on the floor, which was good enough for her third regional floor title. MaKenna Merrell-Giles was third in the all-around with a 39.525.
“I’ve said it all year that those two have been leaders for us, and they were great today,” Farden said.
The Utes were in command from the start on Friday, opening with a 49.2 on the vault, paced by Skinner’s 9.9. Skinner posted another 9.9 on the uneven bars, along with Missy Reinstadtler, to help the Utes to a 39.325 effort.
The two combined event efforts gave the Utes a comfortable lead at the halfway mark with a 98.525 while Arkansas had a 97.95 and BYU and Minnesota both had 97.825.
Vault: Ona Loper (Minnesota) and Derrian Gobourne (Auburn) 9.95
Uneven bars: Cairo Leonard-Baker (Arizona State) 9.925
Balance beam: Sarah Finnegan (LSU) 9.925
Floor: McKenna Kelley (LSU) and MyKayla Skinner (Utah) 9.925
All-around: MyKayla Skinner (Utah) 39.525
“We didn’t stick our vaults like we have been, so we have to improve there,” Farden said.
Utah was solid throughout on the balance beam, earning a 49.075, as every gymnast posted a 9.8 or higher. Kari Lee, the leadoff gymnast, led the team with a 9.85.
The Utes wrapped up the meet with a 49.2 on the floor, led by Skinner’s 9.925.
Farden was optimistic that the Utes could advance to the NCAAs. Utah will start on floor.
“As long as we do what we have been doing and have clean routines we should be good,” he said.
Even though the Cougars didn’t advance, their effort on Friday was still a solid showing for a team that has steadily improved under coach Guard Young, who was named the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference Coach of the Year.
Shannon Evans led the Cougars with a 39.225 in the all-around. She had a 9.85 on the vault, 9.725 on the bars, 9.775 on the beam and 9.875 on the floor.
In the Corvallis Region, Southern Utah finished fourth with a 195.35 behind Denver (196.975), Boise State (196.225) and Washington (195.9).
NCAA Regional Gymnastics
Ranking, Team and Regional Score
Baton Rouge, LA.
Saturday, 6 p.m. MDT
No. 3 LSU (197.2)
No. 6 Utah (196.8)
No. 11 Minnesota (196.3)
No. 14 Auburn (197.075)
Saturday, 5 p.m. MDT
No. 1 Oklahoma (198.3)
No. 8 Georgia (197.3)
No. 9 Kentucky (196.85)
No. 16 Cal (196.75)
Saturday, 8 p.m. MDT
No. 5 Denver (196.975)
No. 12 Boise State (196.225)
Session 2, 8 p.m. MT
No. 4 Florida (197.5)
No. 13 Oregon State (197.125)
No. 25 Stanford (195.995)
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Saturday, 5 p.m. MDT
No. 2 UCLA (197.675)
No. 7 Michigan (196.95)
No. 10 Alabama (197.225)
No. 15 Nebraska (196.8)