Neither Utah nor Oklahoma looked in championship form when the two gymnastics powers clashed Sunday. The Sooners, though, were just a little bit better.
The top-ranked Sooners defeated fifth-ranked Utah 197.925-197.275 in Norman, Okla., handing the Utes their first loss of the year.
Oklahoma, coming off a 197.6-197.45 win at LSU on Monday, opened on a tear on the vault, scoring 49.65 while the Utes earned only 49.15 on the bars.
The Utes’ routines just weren’t as sharp as they needed to be. Grace McCallum hit the low bar with her feet during a transition to the high bar and scored just 9.75 while others were either short on their handstands or had steps on their landings. Cristal Isa led the Utes with a 9.875.
Rather than getting rattled by the opening, the Utes responded with a big effort on the vault, scoring 49.525. Utah was led by a 9.975 from Jaedyn Rucker and 9.95 from Makenna Smith. Utah’s efforts cut Oklahoma’s advantage to 99.075-98.675 at the halfway mark with Oklahoma scoring 49.425.
That response on the vault was one of the most encouraging takeaways for Utah coach Tom Farden.
“Vault was incredible,” he said. “In terms of the score, that is an elite score early in the season and that was a spark for us. But overall we’d have a couple good routines and then a step back, then a couple good routines and a step back. It was a lot of stopping and starting and not building.”
The third rotation was the rockiest for both teams.
Vault: Jaedyn Rucker (Utah) and Allie Stern (Oklahoma) 9.975
Uneven bars: Jordan Bowers (Oklahoma) and Faith Torrez (Oklahoma) 9.9
Balance beam: Maile O’Keefe (Utah) 9.975
Floor: Faith Torrez (Oklahoma) 9.95
All-around: Faith Torrez (Oklahoma) 39.525
Oklahoma’s second gymnast on the beam, Ava Siegfeldt, fell off and the third up, Jordan Bowers, had a major break too and scored 9.725. The rest of the lineup hit though, giving the Sooners a 49.35 on the beam.
A clean floor effort would have cut the deficit more for the Utes, but they couldn’t take advantage of Oklahoma’s mistakes as the Utes made some of their own.
Kara Eaker went in for Maile O’Keefe and had a break on the first pass, scoring 9.675, and Jaedyn Rucker was a little off too, scoring just 9.725.
Grace McCallum led the Utes with a 9.925, but they still only managed 49.2 to let Oklahoma extend its lead by .550 to 148.425-147.875.
The Utes have created many comebacks on the beam in recent years, but the gap was just too much Sunday. The Utes scored a 49.4 on the beam, led by a 9.975 from Maile O’Keefe, but others had breaks to keep the score down.
Oklahoma finished with a 49.5 on the floor.
Utah’s Abby Brenner noted the meet was the first real road meet for the Utes and that affected the team.
“We aren’t robots and we can make mistakes and that is OK,” she said. “We are disappointed in how the entire meet went but it is just Week 3 and it is a long season so we will keep growing.”
The Utes are back in action Saturday when they host Washington at 1 p.m. in the Huntsman Center.
“This does show me how we nationally stack up against the defending national champions and the scores we were earning were encouraging,” Farden said. “We are getting into the rhythm of traveling again, and going up against the No. 1 team and the most dominant team in the country for dang near a decade can get a little heady and the athletes got ahead of themselves a bit.”