Utah gymnastics team earns season highs on all events to easily defeat Arizona

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sydney Soloski on the floor as the University of Utah hosts Arizona State, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.

Most young teams get intimidated competing away from home. But as we are learning about Utah’s gymnastics team, the Utes don’t seem to be like many inexperienced teams.

On Saturday, the fourth-ranked Utes were unfazed by their first real road trip, taking a 197.3-195.975 win at No. 21 Arizona.

The Utes earned season highs on all events and swept all the individual wins except for the uneven bars. Sydney Soloski won the vault (9.875) and floor (9.95) and freshman Abby Paulson won the balance beam (9.925). Freshman Maile O’Keefe scored a 39.325 in the all-around. She was the only gymnast to compete in the all-around.

Soloski said the Utes had a team meeting following their 197.05-194.3 win over Arizona State last week in which the Utes had a lot of ups and downs. They’d start events strong and then struggle.

“Me, Missy [Reinstadtler] and Kim [Tessen] decided we should meet and go over our goals because what we have been doing the last couple meets wasn’t good enough,” she said. “We set our goals and everyone seemed like they had refreshed energy and the fire burning in them.”

The Utes opened with a 49.3 on bars, led by a 9.925 from Cristal Isa and 9.9 from Tessen. The Utes had a season high 49.2 on the vault.

Having such a good start seemed to give the Utes some confidence. They led 98.5-98.125 at the halfway mark, but turned a close meet into a blowout with their final events. The Utes had a 49.375 on the floor with Soloski scoring a 9.95 and Tessen earning a 9.925.

The Utes then closed out the meet with a 49.425 on the beam that was the highest event score they’ve earned this season.

Paulson had the 9.925 and O’Keefe had a 9.9.

“I was intrigued with seeing how they would handle the different environment,” Utah coach Tom Farden said. “It’s a different floor than ours and different arena and they made some quick adjustments on floor and really performed better.”

The Utes made a change with their bars lineup, having O’Keefe lead off instead of LeBlanc. That seemed to be a good decision with O’Keefe earning a 9.8 to start the meet.

“I think Maile was overthinking bars a little bit in the third and fourth spot so we thought to give it a whirl and just get her out there,” Farden said. "She started off strong and we had some great bars.”

Soloski said she was impressed with how the freshmen handled their first real road meet but indicated it wasn’t an unexpected result either.

“We wanted to set our goals and this was a great step in the right direction,” she said. “It’s going to take all 13 of us to get where we want to go and competing together and aggressive.”

No. 4 Utah 197.05, No. 21 Arizona 194.3

In short: In their first meet out of the state of Utah, the Utes posted season highs on every event to easily beat the Wildcats.

Key moment: While Arizona struggled to a 48.9 on the beam, the Utes earned a 49.375 on the floor to turn the meet into a blowout.

Key stat: The Utes didn’t have to count any low scores as all but two scores were 9.8 or higher.

Individual winners

Vault: Sydney Soloski (Utah) 9.875

Uneven bars: Christina Berg (Arizona) 9.95

Balance beam: Abby Paulson (Utah) 9.925

Floor: Sydney Soloski (Utah) 9.95

All-around: Maile O’Keefe (Utah) 39.325