Utah Red Rocks gymnastics survive three falls for a 48th straight appearance at NCAA national championships

The Red Rocks will compete in Forth Worth, Texas, later this month.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Makenna Smith is prepared for the beam by coach Carly Dockendorf during the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships, at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Saturday, March 23, 2024.

The Utah Red Rocks had a 48th consecutive trip to the NCAA Gymnastics National Championships on the line. But after two falls on bars and one on beam, it looked like advancing wasn’t in the cards.

“Definitely not the start we envisioned having,” coach Carly Dockendorf said on the ESPN Plus broadcast of Sunday’s regional final in Gainesville, Fla.

But the Red Rocks did what they’ve done all season: trusted their gymnastics. After the team’s third fall, Utah gymnasts collected themselves and delivered when it mattered most.

The Red Rocks (197.575) finished second to Florida (198.325) in the regional meet and advanced to their 48th straight appearance in the national championship. That event takes place April 18-20 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Utah sat in fourth after the first rotation due to Makenna Smith and Alani Sabado both falling on their uneven bars routines. The 48.975 was a season low in that event.

Dockendorf said she reminded the team that if they were able to get through what happened in the fall, “this moment was nothing compared to that.” Utah’s former coach, Tom Farden, left the program before this season after allegations of emotional and verbal abuse.

“We just used that as fuel and we just kept marching forward,” Dockendorf said.

The Red Rocks survived a fall from Grace McCallum on beam and ended up with four scores above 9.9, highlighted by Maile O’Keefe’s 9.950. That rotation put Utah at third overall midway through the meet.

Utah has shined on floor all season, and it used another exceptional rotation in that event to tie for second place with Missouri with just one event left. A couple of falls on beam from Missouri and a three high-scoring vaults from Utah solidified the Red Rocks in second.

“They’re just such strong women,” Dockendorf said. “Obviously they’re incredible athletes. But it just speaks to their character and who they are as people that they believe so much in one another and want to do this for one another and for themselves. That kind of courage and that kind of strength can’t just be taught. It’s something that’s developed over time. They really had to learn that this year.”

Gainesville Regional meet results

• Florida — 198.325

• Utah — 197.575

• Missouri — 197.325

• Michigan State — 196.650

Top Scores


• Grace McCallum — 9.950

• Maile O’Keefe — 9.875


• O’Keefe — 9.950

• Makenna Smith, Amelie Morgan — 9.900


• Abby Paulson, Jaylene Gilstrap — 9.950

• O’Keefe — 9.925


• Smith, Jaeden Rucker — 9.950

• Ashley Glynn — 9.900