For Cal fans, the end of Friday’s meet against Utah is sure to be a disappointing one. After more than half of the season, Cal’s glowing win streak finally ended as the team fell to the Utes at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. Yet while this defeat may be disappointing to fans, there’s no denying that it was a stellar end.
If there is one thing that is undyingly definite about Utah gymnastics, it’s the bounds of support and electricity across its stands. There were 14,000 fans in Jon M. Huntsman Center on Friday — energy that both teams were able to feed off of, and energy that brings a competition alive.
“I love to compete and I know Utah is a very big environment for competition,” said freshman eMjae Frazier. “(Their fans are) super into it, super into gymnastics and I think that’s really cool.”
And many may attribute this to a number of factors: Cal’s flight to Utah was canceled the day before the meet (leaving them to scramble to take a last-minute early-morning flight), a sub-par vault rotation and the list goes on.
Co-head coach Elisabeth Crandall-Howell remarked on the adversity that COVID-19 brought to the world of gymnastics, and ultimately explained that adaptability was in the team’s blood.
“Well, one of our core values is adaptability, and we immediately leaned on that when the travel arrangements got a little bit chaotic yesterday,” Crandall-Howell said during the meet. “If anybody can handle adversity, it’s this team. They’re built for it.”
So whatever excuse people may put forth for why the Utes came out victorious, the truth is this: The Utes performed out of their minds.
This meet wasn’t a battle to learn who was better, it was a battle to see who would perform better. And, Friday, the answer was Utah.
With an impressive 198.550, the Red Rock team pulled ahead of Cal by a full point, (198.550-197.550), putting up two perfect 10s, winning the all-around title and ultimately the meet.
Most notable for Utah were the powerful performances by Maile O’Keefe. The senior, currently ranked No. 1 on beam nationally, posted a perfect 10 on beam — her seventh perfect 10 of her career. This feat crowned her No. 1 on beam in program history, and was no doubt a factor in her well-deserved all-around No. 1 finish against Cal.
Utah senior and NCAA vault champion of 2022 Jaedyn Rucker posted the other perfect 10 for the team — fittingly, on vault. O’Keefe and senior Abby Paulson took first together on floor with matching 9.950s, allowing the team to take sole first on three of the four events.
Sophomore Bear Maddie Williams, currently ranked No. 8 on bars nationally, took first for the Bears on the event alongside junior Andi Li, Utah redshirt senior Abby Brenner and O’Keefe, all with matching 9.950s. This meet marked a career-high all-around score for Williams, and fell just short of O’Keefe to take second in the all-around.
Sometimes the end is disappointing, and while fans may feel that way about the Friday meet, it was a beautiful end and a very deserved Ute victory. Any team that puts up perfect 10s and walks away from a meet with a list of feats longer than their arm deserves the outcome on Friday, and it’s likely that Cal feels that way too.