Thinking back on it, Carly Dockendorf can’t help but laugh.

Over five years ago, then-17-year-old Maile O’Keefe, a freshman at the University of Utah, approached Dockendorf with a goal for her collegiate career.

It was a simple goal, though to many it would have seemed somewhat outlandish. Especially at that time.

“She is capable of anything she puts her mind to. She is very talented, very gifted. ... She is someone who can take most of the summer off and then come back and do a 10.0 beam routine the next day. Most of us don’t have the luxury of doing that, but she is just so gifted and talented that she is able to.” — Utah coach Carly Dockendorf on Maile O’Keefe

O’Keefe wanted to break the Utah gymnastics record for perfect 10s on balance beam.

Dockendorf remembers to this day her reaction when O’Keefe told her her dream.

“I said, ‘Well that is up to you. You go for that. I’m here for it,’” Dockendorf recalled with a laugh.

The goal wasn’t an impossible one. Not for a gymnast with O’Keefe’s gymnastics pedigree. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t lofty.

“I think she has always set herself up with very big goals, but very realistic goals,” Dockendorf said.

Fast forward to the present day and O’Keefe has more than achieved that goal. She has obliterated it, hence the laughter from Dockendorf.

O’Keefe is now Utah’s program record holder for most perfect 10s on beam in a single season (six) and the most perfect 10s on beam in a career (12), breaking 20-year-old records in the process.

She is also the active NCAA leader in perfect 10s in a career (13) and is one of only two gymnasts with two or more perfect 10s so far this season, along with LSU’s Haleigh Bryant.

O’Keefe’s name has become synonymous with perfection on beam and her routine regularly draws astonishment from spectators.

When O’Keefe mounted the beam last Friday during Utah’s Pac-12 opener against Arizona State, a little girl behind press row let out, “Beautiful. I love it. Beautiful.”

And she could be heard because the rest of those in attendance at the Jon M. Huntsman center were utterly transfixed on O’Keefe.

The thing is, O’Keefe didn’t really believe she’d become Utah’s record holder on balance beam. Not after failing to earn a single perfect 10 her freshman season.

“I honestly didn’t think I was ever going to be able to get there,” she said.

She also didn’t think she’d be able to do it in just four years, and yet she did.

“It really was a goal to break that record in four years, that way people couldn’t be like, ‘Oh she needed a fifth year to do it,’” O’Keefe said.

Though she will need a fifth year to do it, more history is within reach for O’Keefe.

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The reigning NCAA all-around champion is two perfect 10s away from passing Red Rocks great Theresa Kulikowski and becoming Utah’s record holder for total perfect 10s in a career.

O’Keefe is also just three perfect 10s shy from tying for No. 10 all-time in NCAA history, with Michigan’s Beth Wymer. And with four more perfect 10s O’Keefe would tie Georgia’s Leah Brown for No. 9 all time.

While anything beyond that feels out of reach — No. 8 all time are a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, Karin Lichey and Kim Arnold with 21 perfect 10s in their careers — O’Keefe can’t exactly be counted out.

“She is capable of anything she puts her mind to,” Dockendorf said. “She is very talented, very gifted. ... She is someone who can take most of the summer off and then come back and do a 10.0 beam routine the next day. Most of us don’t have the luxury of doing that, but she is just so gifted and talented that she is able to.”

When she reflects on the history she’s made at Utah, O’Keefe is decidedly mature.

In the past she would often deflect praise for her individual successes and insist that team achievement was the be-all, end-all, but she has come to understand, even appreciate that her individual accolades are vital for Utah gymnastics’ success on the whole.

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“I mean you don’t necessarily get team achievement without personal achievement, too. Individuals make a team,” O’Keefe said. “So I’ve been super lucky and thankful to have all the accolades come my way. With work, effort and dedication put forth every meet.”

O’Keefe also is quick to note that with each perfect 10 awarded to her, the pressures have grown. And though she may seem superhuman, she is fallible. Mistakes happen, like what happened at the Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate quad, when she fell off the beam.

O’Keefe can get in her own head, to her detriment, even now.

“I think I’ve gotten 12 (perfect 10s) on beam so it is generally an expectation (now),” O’Keefe said. “Honestly, I wouldn’t say I have managed that super well this year. I got a 10 in the first meet (against Boise State) and then going into the big ABC meet I was like, ‘Oh no, I started at the peak of my performance at the first meet, how am I supposed to uphold this all year long?’

“I didn’t do super great at the ABC meet and that was one of those moments of humanity where I didn’t handle expectations very well.”

Red Rocks on the air

No. 4 Utah
vs. No. 16 Oregon State
Friday, 6 p.m. MST
Huntsman Center
TV: Pac-12 Network
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Against Arizona State, O’Keefe felt that she was performing the best beam routine of her career, as she later told Dockendorf. From the mount to her acro series, everything was flawless.

Then she got in her head.

“Going into my dismount I was telling myself, ‘Oh this is so good this is a 10, just gotta like stick. Just gotta do it,’” O’Keefe said. “And that didn’t work out well for me, so I’ve got to lean back into my training and everything like that. I just got so ahead of myself. Expectation comes with its own adversity. Definitely still trying to work on that this year.”

One day, O’Keefe’s records may be broken, be it in 10 years, or maybe 20 years or even more.

And where exactly her records end up is yet to be determined, with O’Keefe on pace to add six more perfect 10s to her career tally this season, if the first four meets of the year are any indication.

Right now though, she is a legend still actively competing. A Red Rock to remember.

That notion still gets to her a bit sometimes. Something about what 17-year-old Maile would think.

“I mean it is really crazy to think that I hold the record for the most 10s on beam in Utah history, in a season and in a career,” O’Keefe said. “ ... It is really cool.”

Utah’s Maile O’Keefe looks at her teammates after finishing a perfect 10 beam routine during a meet against Boise State at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024. She is the Utah record holder for 10s on the beam. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News