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No. 4 Utah’s first road test of the year a rousing success, as Red Rocks handle No. 21 Arizona behind season-best scores

Utah recorded season-highs on every event, en route to a convincing 197.300-195.975 win over Arizona

File: Utah’s Sydney Soloski performs on the floor during the Arizona State and University of Utah gymnastics meet at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. 
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Through the first three meets of the season, the No. 4-ranked Utah gymnastics team had been good, great even, and yet they weren’t close to being satisfied.

Despite an undefeated record and multiple team scores of 197 or better, a complete meet had otherwise eluded them.

As Alexia Burch succinctly stated following the Utes’ win over Arizona State on Jan. 24, “We aren’t close to our potential.”

That is not the case anymore.

Saturday afternoon in Tucson, the Red Rocks had the meet they were looking for and thanks to season-high team scores on every event, Utah handily defeated No. 21 Arizona 197.300-195.975.

It was the Red Rocks’ first true road meet of the year, but they were unfazed by the hostile environment of the McKale Center.

Utah scored season highs on vault (49.200), uneven bars (49.300), balance beam (49.425), and floor exercise (49.375), benefitting from career-best performances by Sydney Soloski, Abby Paulson and Maile O’Keefe.

Soloski had a near-perfect day, recording career-highs on both vault (9.875) and floor (9.95), both of which were good enough to earn her the fourth and fifth event wins of her career.

Paulson won her second beam title of the season with a career-high 9.925, which makes for three event victories through four meets this season for the freshman.

As for O’Keefe, she recorded a season-best all-around score of 39.325 that included a career-high 9.90 on beam.

Other standouts included Kim Tessen, who scored a 9.925 on floor, a 9.90 on bars and a 9.850 on vault, and Cristal Isa, who scored a team-high 9.925 on bars and a 9.850 on floor.

“We started nicely on bars, vault was good, and floor and beam were really strong to finish the meet,” Utah head coach Tom Farden said.

Beam was hands down the highlight of the meet. Emilie LeBlanc earned a 9.85 from her leadoff position and was followed by Burch, who posted a 9.875. Building on the momentum, O’Keefe earned her 9.90, followed by a 9.875 from Adrienne Randall, a 9.825 from Isa and Paulson’s 9.925.

As good as the Red Rocks were Saturday, they weren’t perfect.

Utah suffered a near fall on floor and had a sizable deduction on vault, to say nothing of other tenths of points left unclaimed.

“We still need to get better at landings and will work hard to improve this area,” Farden said. “There are too many tenths being left on the floor from not sticking enough landings.”

Still, the meet was by far Utah’s best of the season and that it came on the road made it all the sweeter.

”Today was our first road test,” said Farden. “I thought we narrowed the gap between what we see in practice and what we see in actual competition.”