A strong start and an outstanding finish bookended the best meet of the season for the fourth-ranked Utah gymnastics team, which rolled by Stanford 198.075-196.625 on Friday.

The score ties for ninth-best in Utah program history and marks the first time the Red Rocks have cracked the 198 barrier this year.

If it were up to the 13,509 Huntsman faithful in attendance Friday night, the score would have been even higher, as the educated and passionate fans let the judges know on several occasions they weren’t happy with their effort.

The night started with freshmen Camie Winger and Ella Zirbes throwing career highs on vault at 9.95 and 9.925, respectively.

Zirbes followed that up with another career high on bars (9.925), which helped boost Utah to one of its better bars sets of the season (49.45).

Makenna Smith had her own career best on bars, 9.975, to lead off the event. That 9.975 was the first of four in the meet that left the fans chomping at the bit that only one judge flashed a 10.

“We’re in control of our gymnastics, we’re not in control of the judges,” said Abby Paulson when asked about the scoring.

Paulson was one of three Red Rocks who hit back-to-back-to-back 9.975s on beam (she was sandwiched in between Grace McCallum and Maile O’Keefe), and though the perfect score didn’t come, the result was again one of Utah’s best event sets of the season.

That theme of great results for each event carried over to floor, where Utah put on a show. The Red Rocks recorded a 49.7, which is their best effort on any event this year.

The best part was the fans finally got their wish when McCallum was awarded a 10 for her flawless routine, her first perfect score on floor as a Red Rock (her 9.975 on beam just before tied her career high).

 “It was really special to get a 10 on floor,” McCallum said. “I knew that Utah hadn’t gotten a 10 on floor in years and so it just made it that much more special.

“I’ve been working so hard in the gym every day, and I was just hoping that one of these days it would pay off. It was really cool.”

It was the first 10 Utah has had on floor since Red Rock great MyKayla Skinner recorded one in 2019.

Other highlights from the floor included Paulson tying her career high of 9.925 to lead off and Zirbes making her career night a trifecta with a 9.950.

Even with all the career bests, Utah gymnasts and its coach stressed that hitting all four events was really the key takeaway from the effort.

“The first thing that comes to mind is I’m just so proud of the team tonight,” coach Carly Dockendorf said in her opening statement. “Our goal was to put together four events. It wasn’t necessarily a (particular) score but for us to just go out and do our four events because we haven’t done that yet.

“That’s exactly what we did. Obviously 198 is the goal, and that’s kind of what I said in the locker room when we got back is ‘We put four events together and we went 198.’”

Adjustments to the lineups

Utah made adjustments to its lineups in part to replace Amelie Morgan, who is back in England for a couple weeks competing for a spot in the Olympics, in part due to rest because of a short week that had Utah against UCLA on Monday and in part to see who will fill the final spots as Utah heads into the latter part of the season.

The adjustments showed the Red Rocks have depth and the puzzle pieces, as they were able to move gymnasts across lineups. 

“New lineups, new people in bars and beam, moved some people around, and yet we still were able to come out with our best score of the season,” Dockendorf said.

“I think that just talks about the character of this team, how determined they are and the strength of this program. I think we are just getting started.”

My O’Maile

O’Keefe will have to wait another week for a crack at breaking Utah’s all-time 10.0 record, but she notched another outstanding night with 9.925s on bars and floor, and the 9.975 on beam.

It was the second time this week O’Keefe has come oh, so close, as she recorded a 9.975 on beam at UCLA on Monday.

Event Winners  

The Red Rocks won every event on the night, with Winger winning vault (9.95), Smith winning bars (9.975), McCallum, Paulson and O’Keefe winning beam (9.975) and McCallum winning floor (10).

Up Next

The home stand was short lived as Utah is back on the road again for its next two meets. Next week’s battle will be the Red Rocks’ toughest of the Pac-12 regular season against No. 3 Cal.