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Why Utah gymnastics both won and lost in victory over Oregon State

The Red Rocks defeated the Beavers 197.100 to 196.275, but the final score made the meet an unequivocal loss in the eyes of Utah

The Utah Red Rocks win a gymnastics competition against Oregon State at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020.
The Utah Red Rocks win a gymnastics competition against Oregon State at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020.
Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — There is a chant made famous by the fans who fill the Spectrum at Utah State University for men’s basketball games.

Described in simplest terms, fans point to their team — after a win is well in hand — and yell out, “Winning team!” They then point to the opposition — who at this point is already feeling the despair of defeat — and cry out, “Losing team!”

The speed and volume of the cheer and/or jeer then increases as it is repeated over and over again, until the victorious fan base erupts in a final shout of jubilation.

It is both an inane and beloved cheer, and one you will never hear at a Utah gymnastics meet.

If the 15,558 fans who filled the Huntsman Center Saturday afternoon for Utah’s meet against Oregon State had stolen the aforementioned cheer from their northern neighbors, however, it would have been apropos for them to point at Utah twice.

On paper, the No. 3-ranked Red Rocks were victorious in their Pac-12 contest against the No. 21-ranked Beavers. Utah won the meet 197.100 to 196.275, improving to a perfect 8-0 on the season, 4-0 in conference.

A Utah gymnast picked up an event win on every apparatus, whether it be Kim Tessen on vault, Missy Reinstadtler on uneven bars, Maile O’Keefe on balance beam or Sydney Soloski on floor.

There were career-highs scored, chief among them O’Keefe’s 9.975 beam routine, as well as the 9.95 Cristal Isa recorded on beam and the 9.925 that Cammy Hall earned on vault. There were season-highs, too, like the 9.925 Reinstadtler scored on bars.

Utah’s vault rotation was the best it had been all season, a bounce back performance after the team scored a season low on the apparatus a week ago. The 49.450 scored was the second-best vault score by any team in the country this year.

Utah’s beam rotation, meanwhile, while a hair off the historic pace set in the victory over Cal, was still elite and scored a 49.600. Utah also posted a 49.350 on uneven bars, the team’s second-highest score on that event this season.

For many of teams, a score above 197 would be a great performance. Throw in the career and season highs and the meet would be one to remember. Not at Utah, though. The Red Rocks view themselves as an elite national title contender. For them, the score and the meet were an utter disappointment, akin to a loss.

“That is how I’m looking at it,” junior Sydney Soloski said. “Oregon State is not our biggest competition. This is a loss in terms of looking at the best teams. If this happened against one of the teams that we want to run with at the end of the day, this would have been a loss.”

Floor exercise proved Utah’s downfall. The team suffered a pair of falls, from Isa and Reinstadtler. Then there were a few other below-average routines.

“A couple other kids were just kicking things around, not working floor with precision,” Utah head coach Tom Farden said.

The result was a season-low score of 48.700 on floor, a poor enough showing to make the entire meet an abject disappointment.

“It is frustrating,” Farden said. “They know that they ultimately kicked an opportunity to the curb today. We are better than that.”

When taken in conjunction with Utah’s previous five meets, Saturday’s was arguably the worst of the season, all because of floor.

“We fell apart on floor,” said Soloski. “There is no other way to put that.”

Couldn’t Utah have taken some solace in strong performances on the other three events? After all, prior to floor the team was on pace to record a season-high score, possibly in the 198-range.

Not even a little bit, Farden explained. That isn’t gymnastics, which is an all or nothing affair.

“You have to put four events that are super strong to compete against the best of the best,” he said. “It is very important for every event to be at a high octane level. Everything matters. Every detail matters in this thing. To me, everything matters.”

So yes, Utah gymnastics was victorious Saturday against Oregon State, but the Red Rocks also lost.