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Utah Gymnastics advances to NCAA Final after posting highest postseason score in program history

Apr 13, 2023

FORT WORTH – After sitting in third place at the halfway point, Utah Gymnastics rallied on bars and beam to finish in first place in the NCAA Semifinal with the program's highest postseason score in history. Utah advanced to its third consecutive NCAA Final after posting a 198.225 to finish ahead of Oklahoma, which also advanced with a 198.1625, UCLA (197.9125), and Kentucky (197.125).

Utah's brilliant night was highlighted by a historic effort by Maile O'Keefe, who won the first NCAA All-Around title by a Red Rock since 1999 and the first NCAA beam title by a Ute since 2007. O'Keefe now holds four NCAA individual titles in her decorated career. O'Keefe scored a career high 39.7625 in the all-around to win the title, while she scored her fifth Perfect 10 of the season on beam to win the beam title. She joins Georgia Dabritz as the only Red Rocks in history to record a Perfect 10 at the NCAA Championships, and is second all-time with four career NCAA titles. 

Along with O'Keefe's NCAA titles in the all-around and on beam, O'Keefe and Grace McCallum were the NCAA runner-ups on bars (9.95), and Cristal Isa was the runner-up on beam (9.9625). O'Keefe also finished fourth on floor (9.95), Makenna Smith finished fifth on vault (9.90), and Abby Brenner (9.9375) finished seventh on bars.

The Utes started the semifinal on floor and got off to a hot start after a 9.8875 from Brenner and 9.90 from Jaylene Gilstrap. Abby Paulson added in a 9.8375, but her score was later dropped thanks to the remaining three Red Rocks building up from there. Smith posted a 9.875 in her NCAA Championship debut, while Jaedyn Rucker tallied a 9.8875 to keep the momentum going. O'Keefe started her night in the all-around with a massive 9.95 routine to push the Utes to a 49.500 in the opening rotation.

Sitting in second place, the Ute vault team started with a 9.8625 from O'Keefe. Brenner posted a 9.85 and the Utes built from there as Jillian Hoffman added a 9.875, and Smith added a 9.90. Rucker followed with a 9.875 of her own, while Gilstrap recorded a 9.8375 to close out the event. Despite the solid effort, not enough landings were found as Utah's 49.3625 caused the team to fall back to third place with a 98.8625 behind Oklahoma (99.0375) and UCLA (99.225).

Utah turned on its high gears and responded with a season high on bars. Amelie Morgan led off the lineup with a 9.8125, but the score would be dropped after all five counting scores hit a 9.9125 or better. Brenner started the momentum with a 9.9375, Sage Thompson followed with a 9.9125, and O'Keefe collected a 9.95 in the fourth spot. Isa started her evening with a 9.925 for the team, while the return of McCallum to the lineup was warmly welcomed after she scored a 9.95 in her first competition back since Feb. 11.

The season high 49.675 on bars for Utah pushed the team back into second place with a 0.1375 lead over UCLA, which sat in third place. In the final rotation on beam, Morgan earned a 9.8875 in the leadoff spot and Paulson followed with a 9.85. Kara Eaker worked her way to a 9.9125 to get the lineup moving, while Isa exploded for a 9.9625. O'Keefe perfected yet another beam routine this season to clinch the beam and all-around national titles, while McCallum ended the competition with a 9.925.

Utah scored a 49.6875 on beam to wrap up the night and propel itself into first place with its highest score ever at the NCAA Championships. Along with O'Keefe's NCAA titles in the all-around and on beam, O'Keefe and McCallum were the NCAA runner-ups on bars (9.95), and Isa was the runner-up on beam (9.9625). O'Keefe also finished fourth on floor, Smith finished fifth on vault, and Brenner finished seventh on bars.

Utah will compete for a national championship this Saturday, Apr. 15, at 2 p.m. MT on ABC. Utah is set to compete alongside Oklahoma, Florida and LSU at Dickies Arena.