For the first time since 2018, Utah’s gymnastics team has lost three meets in the regular season.

First it was Cal, then Arizona and then Friday night in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the No. 4-ranked Red Rocks came up short against the No. 7-ranked LSU Tigers, 198.125 to 197.875.

Utah was angry about the loss to Cal and livid about the loss to Arizona. Those meets were disappointments.

Against LSU, though, the Red Rocks did about all that could be expected, even though they lost.

Results

  • Team scores — LSU 198.125; Utah 197.875.

Event winners

  • All-around — Haleigh Bryant (LSU); 39.700.
  • Balance beam — Abby Paulson (Utah), Cristal Isa (Utah); 9.975.
  • Floor exercise — Sarah Edwards (LSU); 9.975.
  • Uneven bars — Grace McCallum (Utah), Alyona Shchennikova (LSU); 9.925.
  • Vault — Haleigh Bryant (LSU); 10.0.

On the road in a hostile environment, without arguably its best gymnast, Utah recorded its second highest road score of the season, assuring that the team will remain in top 4 in the national rankings heading into the Pac-12 championships (a top 4 ranking is vital where postseason seeding is concerned).

Grace McCallum, Abby Paulson and Cristal Isa all earned event wins, Utah scored a 9.90 or better on 11 routines, and all of it without Maile O’Keefe.

O’Keefe was expected to compete, in the all-around no less, but was ruled out on the drive to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center with a non-COVID-19 related illness. Senior Adrienne Randall was sidelined by illness as well and didn’t even make the trip to Louisiana.

“It was on the bus ride over when we determined, that it was finalized that (Maile) wasn’t going to go,” Utah head coach Tom Farden said. “She was slated to go in the all-around tonight. Our preliminary lineups had her going on all four events.”

Without the reigning Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year, Utah came up short against LSU. But this loss carried with it much less disappointment.

“Obviously we were missing a couple of athletes tonight,” Farden said. “Right off the bat, we we were messing up our lineups as you could see. Pleased with some of the athletes who had to step in.”

Defining moment

There was no single glaring mistake that cost Utah the meet. The Red Rocks were in contention throughout the night, even as LSU was in the midst of its best meet of the season.

Utah was just not sharp enough on a couple routines on some events to keep pace with the surging Tigers.

Uneven bars and vault, specifically, let Utah down. The Red Rocks scored a 49.400 on bars — a week after setting a new program record with a 49.800 — and followed that up with a 49.400 on vault.

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Miscues early in both lineups set Utah back — Sage Thompson scored a 9.725 leading off on vault, while Alexia Burch fell on bars and Abby Paulson scored a 9.825 — and the team was ultimately unable to recover enough, despite strong routines at the back end of the lineups.

“Not our ideal start on bars,” Farden said. “Definitely thought the last two bar routines were good, though. On vault, not an ideal start in terms of our first vault, but the next five did a nice job.”

Needs work

As the season has gone on, Utah has steadily improved across the board, but especially on events that have been weaker the last few years, events like bars and vault.

Utah has flashed potential on both events this year, and while there were positives Friday night, there were also miscues.

Utah landed every vault, a step forward considering past performances, but the Utes struggled to stick landings.

None of the six gymnasts stuck their vault, leaving much needed tenths or hundredths of points on the board.

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“In general most of the landings were a step in the right direction,” Farden said. “If there is movement (on the landing) we look for that movement to go in the direction of the vault.

“Lucy (Stanhope)’s was a step in the right direction. Jaedyn (Rucker) was too. Cammy (Hall)’s was more vertical. Alexia’s (vault) was a little undercooked, but she was just on that line of sticking it. And Grace’s was done really well.”

Sticks were an issue on bars as well, a stark contrast to the week before when Utah stuck all but one landing.

That’s encouraging

Considering the circumstances, there was plenty to be excited about with Utah’s performance.

The beam lineup, specifically, had one of its better showings of the year, and did so without its best worker in O’Keefe.

“In this hostile environment, with a tight meet going into the last rotation, I don’t think we could ask for more out of balance beam,” Farden said. “It was really incredible for the first five up.”

Utah’s first five gymnasts on beam — Amelie Morgan, Grace McCallum, Burch, Paulson and Isa — all scored at least a 9.90.

Burch did so filling in for O’Keefe, and after having only competed once on beam all year.

“Lex did an incredible job,” Farden said. “Really proud of her to bounce back.”

Paulson and Isa both scored 9.975’s, and Paulson may have competed her best routine of the season.

“Abby’s routine was incredible,” Farden said. “She was in a good frame of mind and did a really nice job in delivery. She has done a good job slowing things down in her head and not getting ahead of her skills. I’m really pleased with Abby, but again the whole beam lineup was spectacular.”

Floor was a strong event as well. Stanhope tied her season-high with a 9.875, despite not expecting to compete.

“Lucy did a really nice job on floor exercise,” Farden said. “She looked great out there with her new floor routine, which is packed with difficulty.”

Senior Sydney Soloski extended her string strong performances as well, scoring a 9.950, her, marking the seventh time this season that she has scored a 9.925 or better on the event.

“Floor was good,” Farden said. “Especially in terms of the finish.”