SEATTLE – A late surge from the fourth-ranked Utah gymnasts on bars and beam secured a berth in the NCAA Seattle Regional Final after the Red Rocks outlasted Stanford, Oregon State and Illinois with a first-place finish in the second round on Thursday night. Utah won the evening session with a 197,800, while Stanford earned the other spot in the regional final by placing second with a 197,450. Oregon State (197,425) and Illinois (197,375) finished third and fourth, respectively, in the competitive session.
The meet became a competition of inches early on as all teams were within just a couple tenths the entire night until the final rotation when Utah used a massive beam set to pull away. The Utes fell behind from the get-go, beginning the competition in fourth place after the first rotation and gaining ground on just one team to move into third place at the halfway point.
The change of the night came from the intricate events as Utah used a 49,475 on bars to move into first place heading into the final event. Amelie Morgan began the rotation with a 9.90 on bars, but the rest of the lineup would need to perform under pressure after a fall in the second spot ensued for Utah. Alexia Burch had a massive routine right after the mistake and posted a career-high 9.95 to give the rotation its confidence back.
The rest of the Utes managed to keep the rotation alive and record an event score that was capable of moving the team in the standings as Sage Thompson (9.85), Maile O’Keefe (9.90) and Cristal (9.875) wrapped up the set with solid scores. The 49,475 on bars from the Red Rocks gave the squad just a quarter-tenth lead over the second place team and a .150 lead over the fourth place team in the tightly contested session.
The Ute beam team showed why they are ranked No. 1 in the country even with late lineup changes to clinch the win in the final rotation. Morgan continued her excellent night with another 9.90 in the leadoff spot, while Randall entered the lineup and scored the second 9.90 of the set. The momentum continued in a big way as the next four scores rolled in as 9.95s to seal the deal. Burch posted her third 9.95 on three events, while Isa, Kara Eaker and O’Keefe all did their jobs to secure the win.
Prior to the bars and beam rotations, Utah got off to a slow start to begin the meet after posting a 49,300 on floor, quickly falling into fourth. Utah received 9.90s from Jaedyn Rucker, Grace McCallum and O’Keefe in the third, fourth and fifth positions to highlight the event. Jaylene Gilstrap and Randall opened the night with consecutive 9.80s to round out the five scorers.
Looking to make a move, O’Keefe continued her momentum after floor and matched a career-high 9.90 in just her third vault of the season. Lucy Stanhope followed and scored the second consecutive 9.90, while Rucker followed with a 9.775. Moments after, Burch rattled off a 9.95 to begin her sensational evening. McCallum recorded a 9.80 to round out the scoring five and put Utah at a 49.325 for the rotation.
The Red Rocks moved to third with a 98,625, trailing Illinois and Stanford, which tied for the lead with a 98,775 each. After a bars set that pushed Utah slightly ahead of its competition, the beam team erupted to take it home and earn an NCAA Regional Final berth.
Utah will compete against No. 5 Alabama and No. 12 Michigan State, which advanced out of the afternoon session, and Stanford on Saturday, Apr. 2. The NCAA Regional Final will take place at 6 pm MT at Alaska Airlines Arena.