Utah gymnastics freshman Maile O’Keefe has quickly evolved into an all-around talent

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

Utah’s gymnastics team doesn’t have the usual amount of all-around competitors this year because the Utes have a large squad filled with gymnasts who are talented on a few events but are out of other lineups due to injury recovery or simply haven’t made the cut.

Freshman Maile O’Keefe is the lone exception thus far, proving that even though she is inexperienced, she is too valuable to leave out of the lineups most of the time.

O’Keefe has competed for the Utes in the all-around in the last three meets and is coming off her best effort yet, a 39.325 in the Utes’ win at Arizona. She is likely to compete in the all-around Saturday when the No. 3 Utes compete at No. 12 California.

Utah coach Tom Farden has been happy with O’Keefe’s performances this year, but was particularly happy with the effort against the Wildcats. The Utes moved her to the leadoff spot on bars and she responded with a season best 9.8.

Farden thought she was ‘thinking,’ too much when she was deeper in the lineup.

“She set a good pace for us and she had one of her best meets so it was great,” Farden said.

O’Keefe, a Las Vegas native, takes her presence in the all-around in stride. A three-year member of the USA National Team (2016-18), O’Keefe is accustomed to pressure situations so being in the lineup in all four events isn’t a bid deal.

“Even if I am on all four events, my scores don’t count anymore than the others,” she said. “Their’s are equally important so we all have the same pressure to hit every event.”


Vitals • 5-foot-2, Freshman

Hometown • Las Vegas

Of note • Has improved her all-around score every meet…Had a season high 9.8 on the bars in the leadoff spot against Arizona…Three-year member of the USA National Team (2016-18) and participated in the national team camp from 2015-18…Earned five gold medals at the P&G Championships (all-around 2016, 2017, beam 2016, floor 2016 and bars 2017)

What is different for O’Keefe is the need for consistency in college gymnastics as opposed to the club level where big skills naturally bring bigger risk.

“That has been a learning experience,” she said. “Learning how to compete with a little more control and hit my routines all the time has been a change.”

O’Keefe was most frustrated with her bars, noting she wasn’t hitting them as well as she wanted, earning 9.6, 9.65 and 9.775 in the Utes’ previous meets.

She and Farden both expect more scores like she had against the Wildcats, particularly since bars along with beam are her favorite events.

“I like the intricacy of the bars,” she said. “You feel very different on that event from the others.”

The Utes have had some fantastic bar workers over the years, including Missy Marlowe, Theresa Kulikowski and Georgia Dabritz. That kind of talent is one reason O’Keefe decided to compete for the Utes.

“The history was always a thing in my mind,” she said. “The legacy that is here and the crowds we get make it an amazing thing to be a part of.”

Not surprisingly, with her credentials O’Keefe was a highly sought after recruit. However, she stayed true to the Utes since Farden had started recruiting her when she was younger and remained consistent with her.

“I always felt supported by him,” she said. “This is a good place for me too because it is close enough to home, but far enough away. I have a good balance.”

As it shows, she is bringing a good balance for the Utes too.


When • Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

TV • Pac-12 Network