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Seniors have opposite performances as Utah gymnastics opens Pac-12 schedule with dominant win

Abby Paulson shined, while Jaedyn Rucker struggled against Arizona State.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Abby Paulson scores 9.975 on beam as Utah hosts Arizona State, NCAA gymnastics at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.

The fifth-year seniors for Utah Red Rocks have put together some impressive performances early this season. Maile O’Keefe has gotten two perfect 10s on beam, Abby Paulson’s Taylor Swift-themed floor routine has steadily improved, and U.S. Olympic gymnast Grace McCallum has been steady.

But Friday’s Pac-12 opening win against Arizona State (197.675-196.700) saw a juxtaposition between two of Utah’s most elder stateswomen. Paulson had her best meet of the season, scoring a 9.975 on beam and 9.925 on floor.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jaedyn Rucker performing a floor routine as Utah hosts Arizona State, NCAA gymnastics at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.

On the other end of the spectrum, Jaedyn Rucker had an uncharacteristicly poor performance with two falls. She scored a 9.250 on vault and 9.025 on floor. Coach Carly Dockendorf chalked up Rucker’s performance to an off night.

“I told her, ‘This meet doesn’t define you,’” Dockendorf said.

Meanwhile, Paulson showed her renewed calmness and confidence she vowed to exhibit coming into her final season in college gymnastics.

“I’m not focusing on the outcome,” Paulson said. “I’m not focusing on anything else that’s happening. My words to myself this year have been ‘calm and confident.’”

Paulson was millimeters away from a perfect 10 on her beam routine. Dockendorf said she thinks that will motivate her Swiftie senior even more.

“I think the fact that she didn’t get it, she’s going to just stay hungry for it,” Dockendorf said. “I thought it was a 10. I thought it was beautiful. I think she will get it this season.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Abby Paulson scores 9.975 on beam as Utah hosts Arizona State, NCAA gymnastics at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.

The Red Rocks had some difficulty with beam Friday, and the deductions came from the veterans. Dockendorf wasn’t pleased with the performance overall in that event.

“There was some good routines, but I definitely was disappointed in the overall performance of our beam lineup just because it felt a little bit tentative,” Dockendorf said. “Not quite what I see in workout. To have some of the veterans out there making mistakes that you don’t see every day, I think that’s just something we’re going to have to keep keep working on because we need six great routines on that event.”

The Red Rocks face Oregon State next Friday at the Huntsman Center.

Top Utah Red Rocks scores

Vault

• Ashley Glynn: 9.925

• Makenna Smith: 9.900

• Amelie Morgan: 9.750

Bars

• Grace McCallum: 9.925

• Smith, Morgan, Ella Zirbes: 9.875

Beam

• Abby Paulson: 9.975

• Maile O’Keefe: 9.925

• Morgan: 9.900

Floor

• McCallum, Paulson: 9.925

• O’Keefe: 9.900