Put Utah’s gymnastics team in a tight situation on the balance beam and the Utes are going to find a way to win. That seems to be the identity of this season’s team as the Utes excelled on the apparatus for the second week in a row to clinch a victory.
Last week Utah’s 49.775 effort on the beam came against UCLA in an upset. On Sunday, the fourth-ranked Utes (10-0, 6-0) scored a 49.6 on the apparatus to beat No. 13 Washington 197.675-197.6 in Seattle.
The victory puts an undefeated regular season within reach of the Utes, who finish the campaign with meets against Stanford and Utah State. Only the 1993 team achieved the feat of going unbeaten in Utah history. More importantly, the win solidified Utah’s reputation as a team that excels on the balance beam under pressure.
The win also clinches the inaugural Pac-12 regular season title for the Utes. This is the first year the league is recognizing such an award since the schedule changed so that all the teams in the league compete against each other.
“To get the trophy is a huge thing for our program,” said Utah coach Tom Farden, who also celebrated his 100th coaching victory. “We want to finish strong but this is quite special.”
Last week’s beam effort staved off the Bruins. This time, Utah trailed Washington by 0.05 going into the final rotation. Abby Paulson, who scored a 10 on the beam last week, was one of three gymnasts to earn a 9.95 on the beam on Sunday. Cristal Isa and Adrienne Randall also had 9.95s and Maile O’Keefe had a 9.9.
Washington totaled a 49.475 on the floor with three 9.9s or better to finish the meet.
“We like it like that,” Farden joked of the tight finish. “This is about the third time we have had to come from behind or a tight situation on beam to pull it out and they are incredible. They continue to gain confidence and know how to perform when the meet is on the line.”
The last-rotation dramatics were set up by a huge effort from the Huskies in the third rotation where they competed on the balance beam and Utah was on the floor.
The Huskies scored a 49.65 on the balance beam to take the lead from Utah, which had a 49.55 on the floor.
Evanni Roberson had a 10.0 for the Huskies and four others scored 9.9 or higher.
Missy Reinstadtler scored a 9.975 and Sydney Soloski had a 9.95 and Maile O’Keefe scored 9.9 to lead the Utes. Jillian Hoffman fell but her mistake didn’t hurt the Utes in the end.
That rotation gave Washington a 148.125-148.075 lead going into the final rotation. Normally home teams can hold onto margins in such situations, but the Utes are showing a special knack for winning on the beam.
“It was really tight,” Farden said. “We only hit 23 routines but Missy had nothing short of a brilliant routine on the floor. The mentality and confidence of this team continues to increase and they are showing a lot of grit.”
The meet was tight from the halfway point on after the Utes opened with a 49.3 on bars and a 49.225 on vault. Missy Reinstadtler led the Utes on the bars with a 9.925 and Kim Tessen had the high score of 9.925 on the vault.
The Huskies started slow with a 49.05 on the vault, then posted three 9.9s on the bars to help them to a 49.425 team score that helped the Huskies draw within 0.05 of the Utes at the halfway mark.
Utah returns home to host Stanford on Friday at 7 p.m.
“It feels really good to win,” Reinstadtler said. “But we aren’t focusing on the meets too much. We are trying to go out and dow what we can do and keep working hard.”
No. 4 Utah 197.675, No. 13 Washington 197.6
In short: The Utes came from behind to beat Washington and put an undefeated season within reach.
Key moment: Utah finished its meet with three gymnasts scoring 9.95 on the balance beam to overtake Washington.
Key stat: The win was the 100th career win for coach Tom Farden, who previously shared the coaching duties with Megan Marsden.
Vault: Kim Tessen (Utah) 9.925
Uneven bars: Missy Reinstadtler (Utah) 9.925
Balance beam: Evanni Roberson (Washington) 10.0
Floor: Missy Reinstadtler (Utah) 9.975
All-around: Evanni Roberson (Washington) 39.575