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No. 3 Red Rocks open up season with comfortable win over No. 6 LSU



#Purple #Rocks #open #season #snug #win #LSU

Estimated learn time: 6-7 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — It wasn’t a very powerful meet the third-ranked Purple Rocks will participate on this season, but it surely was an excellent begin to what’s anticipated to be a promising season for Utah gymnastics.

On Friday night time, Utah led wire-to-wire in an electrical red-and-white striped Huntsman Middle ambiance in opposition to the sixth-ranked LSU Tigers and pulled away for a dominant 197.275-196.725 win. It was the very best season-opening rating for the Purple Rocks since 2005.

“So essential for us to begin like we did tonight,” Utah head coach Tom Farden mentioned. “We all know we have been throwing numerous new expertise and a few new athletes and issues. We felt that it was a fantastic begin for this system.”

The scores have been decrease to begin the season — as they usually are in a season opener — however for lots of the Purple Rocks gymnasts, it was like being in midseason kind. And by the point Maile O’Keefe scored a meet-high 9.950 on beam within the third rotation, Utah had already completed sufficient to drag away from LSU.

Although Utah stays a beam staff — the staff scored a 49.475 on Friday night time and can seemingly stay a high staff nationally on beam — there was a noticeable enchancment in all occasions for the Purple Rocks, who infused Michigan switch Abby Brenner and freshman Makenna Smith to the roster so as to add much-needed depth.

Utah had 5 gymnasts open up on vault with a ten.0 begin worth, and Farden hopes to have a sixth because the season develops. Vault was one in every of Utah’s weakest occasions final season, however Smith delivered in her collegiate debut and scored a team-high 9.90 within the fourth place because the staff rolled to a 49.350 rating on the primary rotation of the night time.

Smith delivered once more on bars (9.850) and ground (9.875) to cap off a powerful debut for the freshman.

“Not too dangerous for our freshman, huh?” Farden mentioned with a way of pleasure. “She’s within the fitness center and he or she’s simply acquired this good spirit about her. She’s spunky but in addition so even keeled, and so precisely what I noticed within the fitness center is precisely what I noticed immediately. … She went on the market and was aggressive in her routines, did not maintain again, and also you noticed some improbable performances.”

For Smith, who mentioned she thought the Purple Rocks Preview was “hype” however added that Friday “was no comparability,” was simply completely satisfied to be on the market in a staff atmosphere and compete together with her teammates for the primary time.

“I believe it is simply superb,” Smith mentioned. “I did not actually know what to anticipate coming into school gymnastics. I by no means had a staff actually again at my dwelling fitness center, so like having all of those individuals round you to help you, it simply brings such a unique really feel within the fitness center.”

Coming into the meet in opposition to a highly-ranked opponent on ESPN, the teaching employees tried to emphasise to the staff that they have been prepared and will compete at a excessive stage. Whereas there have been nonetheless nerves for the season opener, Farden mentioned he was impressed along with his staff’s means to push all of it apart and discover a option to appear like they’d been competing for for much longer.

Utah Red Rocks gymnast Maile O'Keefe competes on the beam in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.
Utah Purple Rocks gymnast Maile O’Keefe competes on the beam in Salt Lake Metropolis on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. (Picture: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Information)

Jillian Hoffman, who returned to the ground after struggling a season-ending damage to her Achilles final season, opened up the meet with a caught touchdown on vault — a 9.825 rating — to set the tone and the staff constructed from there. Smith scored a 9.90 whereas the opposite gymnasts all completed with a rating of 9.875 to spherical out the opening occasion.

Sophomore Grace McCallum stumbled within the opening occasion and sat down on her touchdown. Farden joked that she acquired “grasping” and tried to stay the touchdown by way of her rotation. McCallum was, clearly, disenchanted in her begin, however Farden mentioned he reminded her to “brush this off and let’s simply go into our factor.”

McCallum answered the decision on bars within the anchor place and scored a team-high 9.925 because the staff completed with a collective 49.225 rating to take a 98.575-98.300 lead on the halfway level within the meet.

“Simply brushed it off,” Farden mentioned. “The subsequent three occasions have been unimaginable, so tremendous happy with her.”

“I believe for her, it is simply finest to let her work herself out of her funk or have the coaches do this, and that is precisely what we did,” O’Keefe mentioned. “And clearly it labored, in order that’s simply what we’re gonna proceed to do is assist one another the best way we all know finest.”

McCallum was the one gymnast to compete within the all-around for the Purple Rocks and completed with a 38.950. LSU’s Haleigh Bryant and Aleah Finnegan, who completed with a meet-high 9.950 on ground, tied on the high of the all-around competitors with a 39.450 rating. Fellow teammate Kiya Johnson completed with a 39.350 rating in third place.

Regardless of some wanted areas of enchancment, Farden mentioned he was proud of the begin to the season and hopes to see all occasions proceed to rise because the yr progresses.

“That is the one factor the place we’re persevering with to push is the exactness in our expertise, and we’ll do this,” Farden mentioned. “That is one thing we’re fairly decided on day by day within the fitness center, after which translate it over to the meet. There have been some jitters tonight; there have been some nerves on the market tonight — we noticed them, issues that we do not see within the fitness center.

“However once more, it is your first meet, it is LSU, it is on ESPN, we actually really feel just like the staff dealt with it effectively.”

Movie star standing

Exterior of the particular meet, some of the fashionable collegiate athletes made an look on the Huntsman Middle as a part of LSU’s staff. Junior gymnast Livvy Dunne, who didn’t compete Friday night time, was the focus for a select few in the crowd who chanted “Livvy” repeatedly all through the meet.

The social media star, who has 9.3 million social media followers and is essentially the most adopted collegiate athlete with a reported NIL valuation someplace over $2 million, was handled to a raucous fan base that held up indicators and tried to catch her eye all night time.

On the conclusion of the meet, the LSU staff bus needed to be moved and the LSU staff wanted a police escort to make sure its security from all of the followers hoping to see her as she left the stadium.

Purple Rocks staff scores

1st Rotation: Vault (49.350)

  • Jillian Hoffman: 9.825
  • Abby Brenner: 9.875
  • Lucy Stanhope: 9.875
  • Makenna Smith: 9.900
  • Grace McCallum: 9.300
  • Jaedyn Rucker: 9.875

2nd Rotation: Bars (49.225)

  • Makenna Smith: 9.850
  • Abby Brenner: 9.800
  • Sage Thompson: 9.800
  • Maile O’Keefe: 9.850
  • Cristal Isa: 9.775
  • Grace McCallum: 9.925

third Rotation: Beam (49.475)

  • Amelie Morgan: 9.825
  • Cristal Isa: 9.875
  • Grace McCallum: 9.875
  • Abby Paulson: 9.875
  • Kara Eaker: 9.900
  • Maile O’Keefe: 9.950

4th Rotation: Flooring (49.225)

  • Abby Paulson: 9.800
  • Jaylene Gilstrap: 9.850
  • Maile O’Keefe: 9.850
  • Makenna Smith: 9.875
  • Grace McCallum: 9.850
  • Jaedyn Rucker: 9.000


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Josh is the Sports activities Director for and beat author of College of Utah athletics — primarily soccer, males’s basketball and gymnastics. He’s additionally an Related Press High 25 voter for faculty soccer.

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