Why a Utah Red Rocks gymnast booed the judges

Maile O’Keefe disagreed with three consecutive near-10s during Utah’s beam rotation.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah’s Maile O’Keefe sticks her landing after performing on the bars as Utah hosts Stanford, NCAA gymnastics at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024.

Maile O’Keefe finished her beam routine to resounding cheers from the nearly packed Huntsman Center crowd on Friday night. It seemed as though she would break the Utah Red Rocks all-time record for perfect 10s after yet another stellar performance in what is arguably her best event.

As one of the judges flashed a 10, the crowd roared. But those cheers turned into boos as the other judge held up a 9.95. That made her average a 9.975.

The big screen showed O’Keefe’s reaction as she lightheartedly put two thumbs down and appeared to boo along with the crowd during the meet against Stanford.

“That beautiful routine,” Grace McCallum said of O’Keefe’s beam performance. “I mean, it was stunning. They did give her one 10, but she’s like, ‘Aw, come on.’ She deserves it.”

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Grace McCallum reacts after sticking her landing during her floor routine, ultimately scoring a perfect 10, as Utah hosts Stanford in NCAA gymnastics at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024.

O’Keefe then appeared to say, “Three in a row,” while putting up three fingers. She seemed to be referencing Abby Paulson and McCallum before her nearly getting perfect 10s from the judges on their beam routines, only for one judge to flash a 10 and the other a 9.95.

“We’re in control of our gymnastics,” Paulson said. “We’re not in control of the judges. We’re just proud of each other. We watch each other and we’re like, ‘Yeah, that was a good routine.” And that’s all that matters.”

O’Keefe was not made available to reporters after the meet. She has notched 14 10s in her career, tied with Theresa Kulikowski for the Red Rocks record.

Coach Carly Dockendorf said she did not see O’Keefe’s reaction to her beam score, but said it was “maybe not the best body language” before pointing out the common practice of disagreeing with officials.

“They care a lot and they’re passionate,” Dockendorf said of her gymnasts in general. “It’s like a basketball game. Someone’s going to yell at the ref if they don’t like the score. There’s just a lot of emotion behind what they’re doing.”

McCallum later pulled off a perfect 10 in her floor routine. Her previous high score for that event was a 9.95.

“It was really special to get a 10 on floor,” McCallum said. “I knew that Utah hadn’t got a 10 on floor in years. So it just made it that much more special.”

No. 4 Utah beat Stanford easily, 198.075-196.625. The next meet for the Red Rocks is March 2 against No. 3 California on the road