Utah gymnastics wins Pac-12, scores season-high in victory over Oregon State as Maile O’Keefe tallies career high in all-around
Accomplishing something is one thing. Doing it in emphatic fashion is another.
On Friday night at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Oregon, the Utah Red Rocks not only clinched their second consecutive Pac-12 Conference regular season championship, but perhaps more importantly as they eye nationals, they scored their season high en route to a 197.575-196.425 win against the overmatched Oregon State Beavers.
To boot, sophomore Maile O’Keefe scored a career-high 39.725 in the all around as Utah claimed victory.
Coach Farden just sent this pic to me. I cant express how impressive this group is each and every year. Simply amazing...!! pic.twitter.com/bxSdwVC7SE— Mark Harlan (@MarkHarlan_AD) March 6, 2021
Head coach Tom Farden noted multiple times in his post-meet press conference the challenge of going back to a venue in which there were no fans (families have been allowed at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City the past two meets), which he said made his group’s performance all the more impressive.
“There was no energy in the arena this evening, but the athletes brought the (energy),” he said. “... Our staff felt that this evening was a build.”
Farden was in such a good mood that he deadpanned as he said he told the gymnasts following a 49.225 on bars to open, a 49.325 on vault and a 49.425 on floor, “Let’s try to do better than one-tenth on beam.”
He quickly clarified, “I’m joking. We didn’t say that to them,” but in any case, the Red Rocks went out and dominated their beam set, even by the standards of the third-best team in the country on the event, scoring a season-high 49.6.
Alexia Burch opened things with a 9.9 and Lucy Stanhope scored a 9.825, followed by a 9.95 from Cristal Isa. Abby Paulson, ranked fourth in the country on the event, copied that score, followed by a 9.825 from Adrienne Randall.
Then O’Keefe, the best beam worker in the country, finished the meet off with a 9.975.
And the nation's No. 1-ranked gymnast on beam comes in with a 9.975 to end the meet for Utah! Maile scores a career-high 39.725 in the all-around‼️ pic.twitter.com/EKpNrJMzjV— Utah Gymnastics (@UtahGymnastics) March 6, 2021
“They seem to be striking postseason form at the right time, and we know that beam is an event for us that’s a weapon,” Farden said. “Tonight was pretty spectacular.”
That could be said for all four of O’Keefe’s routines, as she started with a career-high 9.95 on bars, followed by a pair of 9.9s on vault and floor before the big finish on beam.
“Maile was in a great space all day,” Farden said. “She cares. She said, ‘We’re going to Oregon to win and to be undefeated,’ and so she vocalized that and then led the way. Pretty impressive for a sophomore.”
Indeed, Utah once again finished Pac-12 action undefeated to claim the regular season championship, and while Farden said that “speaks volumes for our athletes being able to win on the road and at home and obviously the Pac-12 has some thoroughbreds and the blue bloods and some rising, talented teams that really tested us this year,” he and his team know there is more in sight as they get ready for their regular season finale next Friday at home against Utah State and then the postseason.
“Maile (O’Keefe) was in a great space all day. She cares. She said, ‘We’re going to Oregon to win and to be undefeated,’ and so she vocalized that and then led the way. Pretty impressive for a sophomore.” — Utah coach Tom Farden
To that end, he was pleased with the upward trend his team continues to show.
“We haven’t had a lot of road meets, and then to have a road meet in Gill Coliseum where there were no fans this evening and no parents and no noise at all, it showed us the intrinsic motivation that they have to succeed and to prepare themselves for the conference championships and beyond,” he said.
As coaches always seem to be, Farden wasn’t completely satisfied Friday, noting that bars can still get better, and some was left on the table during vault, but “beam was really spectacular and floor was equally as spectacular, too, so there are little things that we can probably pull out on each event, but overall we’re pleased in the direction we’re moving.”