Utah gymnastics team scores its season high in win over Washington

Red Rocks sweep every event in Pac-12 victory over Huskies.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jaylene Gilstrap on beam (exhibition) as Utah hosts Washington, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cristal Isa on the beam as Utah hosts Washington, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023.

If there was such a thing as an unsportsmanlike penalty in gymnastics, the balance beam would demand the flag against Utah’s gymnastics team. Never mind the beam is an inanimate object without feelings. It has to feel embarrassed.

Utah’s gymnastics team, ranked No. 1 in the nation on the beam, has all but picked up the beam and slammed it down with domination. Since MMA moves aren’t really a thing in gymnastics, the Utes have settled for just mocking the once-feared 4-inch wide apparatus.

On Saturday the fourth-ranked Utes scored a 49.625 on the beam, their second-best beam score of the year, to pace their 197.975 - 196.35 win over Washington in front of 12,232 fans in the Huntsman Center.

All of Utah’s counting scores were 9.9 or higher.

Grace McCallum toyed with the beam with her turns, counting them out for the judges in case they missed a couple in her 9.9 routine. Cristal Isa scored a 9.95 as she continues to act like the beam is a dance floor with all her crowd-appealing moves and Maile O’Keefe earned a 9.975 for the closing score.

It has almost reached a point of ridiculousness, the way the Utes are shaming the beam.

“The depth is insane on that event,” O’Keefe said in explaining the beam success. “It’s a dog fight for positions and people are owning their gymnastics on that event.”

Beam wasn’t the only area in which the Utes shined Saturday.


Vault: Jillian Hoffman (Utah) 9.95

Uneven bars: Grace McCallum (Utah) and Maile O’Keefe (Utah) 9.95

Balance beam: Maile O’Keefe (Utah) 9.975

Floor: Grace McCallum (Utah) 9.95

All-around: Grace McCallum (Utah) 39.65

Utah’s gymnastics coaches decided to move Jillian Hoffman from the leadoff spot to the anchor on vault Saturday, just in case she couldn’t hit her new vault.

They shouldn’t have worried.

Hoffman scored a career-best 9.95 as the vaulting anchor to deliver the first big score of the day.

“The way they hit five for five, that made my job easier,” Hoffman said. “I could just go out there and do what I wanted to do.”

O’Keefe earned a season high 9.95 on the uneven bars with an extremely clean routine, and McCallum ended Utah’s floor rotation with a 9.95 to capture her second event title of the day.

All in all it was a huge meet for a team that could have been in danger of a mediocre outing. The Utes were coming off their first loss of the season at Oklahoma on Sunday and competing against a team they probably knew they’d beat with an average effort.

But they were far from average, logging the season-high team score.

“We wanted to go out and hit 24 routines and do the best we can,” senior Abby Brenner said.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Abby Brenner on the bars as Utah hosts Washington, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023.

The Utes host No. 6 UCLA Friday at 7 p.m. in a Pac-12 showdown.

Utah still has some areas in which coach Tom Farden is adjusting, but all in all the Utes head into the meet with the Bruins on a new level.

“We had a great week of practice,” Farden said. “You can’t prepare a team better than they did this week.”

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