Another week, another strong outing for the University of Utah’s women’s gymnastics team.

The Red Rocks’ strongest yet this season, in fact, as far as scoring goes.

On the heels of a good Pac-12 opening victory over No. 23 Arizona State last weekend, the Red Rocks did even better Friday night in Salt Lake City against No. 16 Oregon State.

Led by fifth year senior Maile O’Keefe, who tied Theresa Kulikowski for the program’s perfect 10s career record, the Red Rocks put on a show for a packed Huntsman Center and recorded a season-high score of 197.750.

That was easily enough to defeat the visiting Beavers, who finished with a 196.100.

Results


Team scores — Utah, 197.750; Oregon State, 196.100


Event winners


  • All-around — Makenna Smith (Utah); 39.525.
  • Balance beam — Maile O’Keefe (Utah); 10.0.
  • Floor exercise — Maile O’Keefe (Utah); 9.950.
  • Uneven bars — Grace McCallum (Utah); 9.950.
  • Vault — Jaedyn Rucker (Utah); 9.975.

No. 4 Utah set a new season-high event score on vault (49.525), a score that was matched by the beam rotation, a set head coach Carly Dockendorf said was “much more Utah beam.”

Utah also kept its streak alive of scoring at least a 49 or better on every event in every meet this season.

Outside of a mistake-marred bars rotation, the Red Rocks were solid across the board, with Utah gymnasts coming away with every single event title — O’Keefe on beam and floor exercise, Makenna Smith in the all-around, Grace McCallum on uneven bars and Jaedyn Rucker on vault.

“Consistent meet for us again,” Dockendorf said. “Kind of hitting three events again, missing that fourth event all at once.

“I thought that the energy with the team was excellent tonight. I felt like they truly enjoyed being out there together and being in the Huntsman (Center) and I think that brought a lot of energy to the team.”

Added McCallum: “I feel like we were more cohesive this weekend. We tried to stay in close quarters and put all of our energy into whoever was going up to compete, so I think overall our energy was so much better. Even if there was a little bobble or mistake, we didn’t let it faze us and kept going.”

Defining moment

Things were close through two events Friday. Really close, in fact, making the third rotation — Utah on beam, Oregon State on floor — a vital one when it came to who won and who lost the meet.

Rucker very nearly set the Utah program record for the most perfect 10s on vault in a career, with a 9.950 from one judge being the difference between a 9.975 and perfect 10.

McCallum didn’t score lower than a 9.90 on the three events she competed, looking more comfortable than she has since before she was injured a season ago.

Abby Paulson continued her strong fifth season with with a pair of 9.925s, including a valiant beam routine that saw her fend off multiple balance checks.

Makenna Smith took the all-around title again, scoring a 9.850 or better on all four events.

But the night belonged to O’Keefe.

Already a record holder in program history for perfect 10s in a season and in a career on beam — something she had wanted since first arriving at Utah — O’Keefe is now tied for the most career perfect 10s at Utah.

The 14th perfect routine of her career, fittingly came on beam — she has 13 perfect 10s on beam, one on bars — and it was no different from the others, eliciting stunned silence throughout her performance, only to be followed by raucous cheers when the scores were revealed.

“It feels really good,” O’Keefe said. “No matter what I feel like, a 10 is never given until it is on the scoreboard, so it was really satisfying again to see it up there. Coming off of last week (when she got a 9.9 after a bad landing), I tried way too hard to get that so it was nice to let it happen.”

For Dockendorf, the latest round of perfect by O’Keefe only confirms that her hard work is paying off.

“It just continues to show the amount of work she puts in,” Dockendorf said. “I don’t think you can ever have too many 10s.

“I know it feels like the norm for her now, but a lot of things have to come together in a minute 30, and for her to continue to get 10s, it is a special moment whether it is No. 1, No. 13 or No. 15.”

O’Keefe joked — though she may also have been serious — that she was worried that she would be stuck on 13 perfect 10s for forever, something about it being an unlucky number.

“We are good,” she said with a laugh. “We are past it now.”

Standout routines

In addition to the aforementioned standouts, multiple gymnasts impressed with their performances.

Senior Jaylene Gilstrap fell on beam, but take away that mistake and she had arguably the best meet of her career, finishing with a 9.90 on floor and a much needed 9.925 on vault.

Her vault helped rescue a rotation that appeared in danger of being fairly low scoring to start. Smith and Rucker helped turn that around, but Gilstrap’s effort capped it all off.

The thing is, Gilstrap wasn’t even supposed to compete on vault, but was subbed in late for Amelie Morgan after Morgan struggled during vault warmups.

“We just felt like putting Jaylene in for a big layout full was going to be the right decision,” Dockendorf said. “It obviously paid off.”

Speaking of Morgan, the Olympic bronze medalist did what she always does, that is lead off Utah’s beam lineup with aplomb.

She also had a strong showing on bars, which was especially needed as the Red Rocks struggled on that event.

Adjustments to make

For as good as Utah did Friday night, there were noticeable mistakes.

The team had a season-high score on vault, but the routines by Rucker, Smith and Gilstrap masked some struggles by Camie Winger, Ella Zirbes and Ashley Glynn, none of whom were able to stick their landings.

Still, Dockendorf was pleased with how they approached their vaults, steps on landings set aside.

“Not a lot of perfect sticks, but big vaults,” she said. “It was great to see them aggressive and dynamic.”

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Speaking of sticks, Utah struggled mightily with them on bars, only registering one the entire rotation, courtesy of McCallum.

Throw in a fall from Zirbes, a significant mistake from O’Keefe (one she admitted she isn’t very used to) and one too many little miscues from Alani Sabado, and Utah’s rotation left a lot to be desired.

And a great deal of room for improvement.

“I thought that bars was a little uncharacteristic with some of the mistakes,” Dockendorf said. “Ella is still getting comfortable competing and she is a freshman and had a huge meet last week. It is going to take some time for her.”

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Even though beam was a return to form for Utah, Gilstrap fell and a few mistakes from Morgan and Smith limited the scoring potential on that event.

Even floor, Utah’s best scoring event of the night, saw significant mistakes, including a fall by Rucker, though Dockendorf remains confident in her fifth-year senior.

“I really thought Jaedyn was going to have a big first pass,” Dockendorf said. “She warmed up well and was in a great head space, but the vault that she did proved the amount of work that she did this week and that she is going to continue to move forward.”

The takeaway

For yet another week, Utah was good, great even.

The Red Rocks did more than enough to win, enough to post a really good score in the high 197 range.

And yet, as it has done in almost every meet so far this season, Utah couldn’t quite put it all together on every event.

The Red Rocks continue to tease their high-end potential while competing well enough to maintain a position as one of the better teams in the country.

With multiple road meets awaiting, first at Washington next Saturday followed by a trip to UCLA on Presidents’ Day, Utah knows it needs to be better, though.

And the Red Rocks want to be.

“Historically we haven’t always done our best on the road,” Dockendorf said. “That is something we are really aiming to improve on this year.”

The Utah Red Rocks light up the U after winning a gymnastics meet against Oregon State at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News