Utah gymnastics team tops No. 5 UCLA

Maile O’Keefe’s 10.0 helped the Red Rocks win at the Huntsman Center.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Maile O'Keefe scores a 10 on the beam as Utah hosts UCLA, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.

One judge would give a 10.0, the other a 9.95 or 9.9, then they’d flip flop in their scoring with a 10.0 here and a lesser score there. On it went for the Utah gymnastics team Friday as the judges seemingly could never get in sync and give the Utes a perfect score.

Leave it to Maile “Ice” O’Keefe to right the gymnastics world for her team.

O’Keefe performed arguably the best beam routine of her career as she left no doubt she deserved as 10.0 Friday, logging the perfect score to help the Utes to one of their best beam sets in history.

Oh, and as for the showdown with No. 5 UCLA? Well that never really transpired after the fourth-ranked Utes overcame a small deficit following the first rotation to win in commanding fashion.

The last three events were dominated by Utah as it cruised to a 198.2-197.45 win in front of 13,903 at the Huntsman Center. Utah’s final tally tied the fifth-highest score in program history. The school record is a 198.6 scored against BYU in 2004.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cristal Isa scores a 9.95 on the bars as Utah hosts UCLA, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.

The way the Utes performed made it reaching that mark again seem possible.

“If we can just max out on everything we can do, we can set records of our own,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe’s perfect score was her fifth on the balance beam in her career and gave the Utes a 49.775 team score, which tied the school record previously set against UCLA in 2020.

Appropriately enough, O’Keefe picked the call name “Ice,” for the Utes Top Gun-themed night.

Even Utah coach Tom Farden seemed in awe of her abilities, even though he sees them every day in practice.

“You watch her and the way she pauses and takes her time, it’s poetry,” he said.

O’Keefe admitted the beam routine might have been her best, noting she was set up by her teammates.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jillian Hoffman celebrates a 9.975 score on the vault as Utah hosts UCLA, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.

The Utes had 9.975s from Kara Eaker and Grace McCallum, a 9.95 from Cristal Isa and 9.875s from Amelie Morgan and Abby Paulson. One of the 9.875s was dropped, leaving the Utes with the highest beam score in the country this year.

“You can go up there and do a solid routine when the first five go up and hit like that,” she said.

While the beam was a bit of a blur, O’Keefe admitted she soaked in the atmosphere and buzz the Utes’ performance created in the arena before she competed her floor routine, which earned a 9.925.

“Right before my routine I was looking around the Huntsman and taking the moment in,” she said. “At some points those moments are going to be over and personally I knew it was a moment to remember and I want to relish it.”

Utah fans might want to relish it too.

Even though Farden promises the Utah-UCLA rivalry will continue even after the school joins the Big Ten with the start of the 2024-25 season, it won’t be the same as it is now, with Pac-12 bragging rights and titles on the line.

The two schools have combined for nine of the 10 Pac-12 Championships and are the favorites again.

But on this night the Utes, who have won for the last two years, proved they are even a step above their closest competition.

“Our athletes yesterday, I could tell,” Farden said of the big meet. “We saw it. I knew they were going to be like this,” he said as he snapped his fingers.

It was like he was counting off 10.0s and wins, effortlessly.

Individual Results

Vault: Jillian Hoffman (Utah) and Jordan Chiles (UCLA)

Uneven bars: Jordan Chiles (UCLA), Maile O’Keefe (Utah), Cristal Isa (Utah) and Grace McCallum (Utah) 9.95

Balance beam: Maile O’Keefe (Utah) 10.0

Floor: Jordan Chiles (UCLA) 9.95

All-around: Jordan Chiles (UCLA) 39.775