Utah gymnastics team posts its third-highest score ever in win over Cal

Utes bounce back from loss to Arizona State to score 198.55 against the Golden Bears

Utah’s gymnastics team promised it would be fine without Olympian Grace McCallum. Then the Utes lost a shocker meet at Arizona State on Monday.

How to erase that disappointment? With a huge, historic win.

Those lucky enough to be among the 13,556 in the Huntsman Arena were treated to a record performance by the Utes Friday as they downed No. 6 Cal 198.55-197.55.


Vault: Jaedyn Rucker (Utah) 10.0

Uneven bars: Maile O’Keefe (Utah), Abby Brenner (Utah), Andi Li (Cal), Madelyn Williams (Cal) 9.95

Balance beam: Maile O’Keefe (Utah) 10.0

Floor: Abby Paulson (Utah), Maile O’Keefe (Utah) 9.95

All-around: Maile O’Keefe (Utah) 39.75

The Utes’ score was the third-highest in school history with just a 198.6 in 2004 and a 198.575 in 2022 being the only marks higher.

In addition, senior Maile O’Keefe became the school record holder with a 10.0 on the balance beam, giving her seven for her career.

She previously was tied with Theresa Kulikowski (1999-2003). O’Keefe hasn’t scored less than 9.925 this season on the beam and hinted she had a bead on breaking that longstanding record, a mark that stood so long that O’Keefe made those who remembered Kulikowski’s routines feel rather old.

“I was one,” she said of her age during Kulikowski’s time at Utah. “It’s amazing to work hard and have my name in the record book. She was obviously an amazing athlete and it’s cool to be there.”

Utah was so dominant, it was hard to remember the Utes were in a must-win situation against the Bears, who were the last remaining undefeated team in the league.

The Utes now have a chance to win at least a share of the regular-season title with a home meet against Arizona on March 3, and a road meet at Oregon State on March 11 remaining before the Pac-12 Championships on March 18.

Utah coach Tom Farden was thrilled with the way his team responded to the loss at Arizona State, which snapped a 33-meet winning streak against the Sun Devils.

“They weren’t happy on Monday,” Farden said. “It was like kicking a hornets’ nest and they came out and you saw what they did.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jaedyn Rucker celebrates a 10 on the vault as Utah hosts California, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023.

O’Keefe’s 10.0 wasn’t the only one of the night as senior Jaedyn Rucker earned one on the vault. The score was a little redemption for Rucker, who sat her vault at Arizona State on Monday.

“I didn’t do anything different,” Rucker said. “Every week I go in knowing the base of the vault needs to be good.”

Unlike the last two meets, when the Utes failed to break 49.0 on the vault, the Utes opened strong tying their season high on vault with a 49.525.

Cal still managed to have the lead as it opened with a 49.575 on the uneven bars.

However, the vibe felt much different for the Utes than on Monday as they were overall more crisp and confident on the vault. That attitude carried over to the bars where they earned the lead with a season-high 49.6, led by 9.95s from Abby Brenner and Maile O’Keefe.

Cal had a 49.575 on the vault to trail Utah 99.125-98.725 at the halfway mark.

The Utes’ 49.75 on the beam, their second-highest mark of the year on that event, increased the gap on the Bears who had a 49.325 on the floor.

Utah capped off the meet with a season-high 49.675 on floor paced by 9.95s from O’Keefe and Abby Paulson.

Utah’s dominance showed that the Utes might just be fine without McCallum after all, especially with O’Keefe and Co., popping off the high scores.

“It speaks to our team this year that with every step back there is a come up,” O’Keefe said.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) An injured Grace McCallum cheers on her teammates as Utah hosts California, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023.

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