Utes finish second in regional to advance to NCAA gymnastics championships

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sydney Soloski competes on the floor, in PAC-12 Gymnastics action between the Utes and The California Golden Bears, in the Jon M. Huntsman Center, in Salt Lake CIty, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019.

One long streak came to an end and another continued Saturday for Utah’s sixth-ranked gymnastics team.

Utah finished second in its regional in Baton Rouge, La., to advance to the NCAA Championships April 19-20, in Fort Worth, Texas.

Host LSU won the regional with a 197.5 while the Utes were second with a 197.25. Failing to qualify were Minnesota (196.9) and Auburn (195.725).

Utah is the only team in the country to qualify for all 44 national championships.


In short: Utah advanced to the NCAA Championships despite MyKayla Skinner’s first fall of her career.

Key moment: Kari Lee started Utah’s last rotation on the balance beam with a 9.9.

Key stat: MyKayla Skinner’s fall on bars was the first of her career, ending her NCAA record streak of consecutive hit routines at 161.

The Utes made it to the NCAAs despite the first big mistake of junior MyKayla Skinner’s career as she fell from the uneven bars, her first fall of her career, ending an NCAA record streak of 161 made routines.

Even with Skinner’s mistake, the Utes were in second place throughout the meet and came close to knocking off the heavily favored Tigers.

“Talk about a competition,” Utah coach Tom Farden said. “I’ve been involved in a lot of meets now with Utah and I don’t remember one being that hotly contested.”

The Utes were impressive in the way they handled Skinner’s error as they trailed LSU 148.2-147.9, going into the final rotation, while Minnesota was third with 147.775 and Auburn was fourth with 146.475.

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NCAA Gymnastics Championships

April 19-20, Forth Worth, Texas

Instead of being rattled, the Utes finished strong on the balance beam, earning a 49.35.

Senior Kari Lee had a 9.9 and Skinner, MaKenna Merrell-Giles and Sydney Soloski all had 9.875s to close out the solid effort for Utah.

Merrell-Giles finished with a 39.6 in the all-around, tying LSU’s Sarah Finnegan for the meet high.

Farden said Skinner has been fighting a virus.

“She saw the LSU doctor and got some medicine but she just hasn’t been at her best,” he said. “We knew this day was going to come for the streak to end sometime and we told her to just brush it off and that the team had her back and they did, they fought to the end.”

Thanks to a pre-determined draw, the Utes opened the meet on the power event of floor, normally not a desirable opening event because scores are often low in the opening rotation and teams sometimes have trouble opening on such an adrenalin-fueled apparatus.

But the Utes did a nice job, earning a 49.375 led by MaKenna Merrell-Giles 9.9 and Skinner’s 9.95.

LSU had its own strong opening rotation, posting a 49.5 on the balance beam to take the early lead over the Utes while Minnesota had a 49.275 on the bars and Auburn had a 49.05 on the vault.

Unlike in Friday’s session, when the Utes failed to stick their vaults, they hit them on Saturday and earned a 49.425, a big improvement over Friday’s 49.2. Merrell-Giles and Skinner both had 9.925s.

“It was an entirely different event for us,” Farden said. “Their legs had a lot more pop in them. I don’t know if it was because we competed in the morning yesterday or the long travel day or what, but they weren’t firing like they were tonight.”

In the second rotation, LSU posted a 49.35 on floor, giving the Tigers a 98.85-98.8 advantage over Utah while Minnesota remained third with a 98.65 and Auburn was fourth 97.45.

Without Skinner’s normally high score on the uneven bars the Utes had to settle for a 49.1, but in the end the low score didn’t harm them.

“I’m really proud of us making nationals and the progress this team has made on the balance beam,” Farden said. “To finish like that just shows the hunger this team has.”

NCAA Regional Results

(top two teams advance to NCAAs)

Baton Rouge, La.

LSU 197.5

Utah 197.25

Did not advance

Minnesota 196.9

Auburn 195.725

Athens, Ga.

Oklahoma 198.475

Georgia 198.05

Did not advance

Kentucky 197.6

Cal 197.6

Ann Arbor, Mich.

UCLA 198.075

Michigan 197.275

Did not advance

Alabama 197.25

Nebraska 196.65

Corvallis, Ore.

Denver 197.375

Oregon State 196.9

Did not advance

Florida 196.7

Boise State 196.075

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