Y’ALL, IT’S FINALLY HERE! We’re kicking off the 2020 season with the Utah Utes facing the Kentucky Wildcats for only the second time in program history. Both teams are coming off of top 10 finishes in 2019 and are looking to build on last season’s results. Each team is also dealing with the loss of their respective trio of leaders (Kentucky’s Alex Hyland, Sidney Dukes and Katie Stuart; Utah’s MyKayla Skinner, McKenna Merrell-Giles and Kari Lee), and will be relying heavily on freshmen talent. This meet will be a revealing first test of how well the teams are adapting to the changes.
What to Watch For
- Raena Worley: The freshman impressed at the 2019 Nastia Liukin Cup and has the potential to fill some of the gaps left by last year’s graduating class (particularly on vault and floor).
- Ella Warren: The junior only competed beam and floor in 2019 but went 9.850-plus on all four events at Kentucky’s recent Blue/White intrasquad.
- Mollie Korth: The All-American is one of the best all arounders in the country, and she posted a fairly realistic 39.600 at the intrasquad (including a 9.950 vault).
- Other: We’re hoping against hope that Mollie Korth’s dad, Kevin, shows up at the Huntsman in his signature blue body paint.
- Maile O’Keefe, Abby Paulson and Jillian Hoffman: This is one of the most anticipated freshman classes of the year and potential successors to Skinner, Merrell-Giles and Lee.
- Crystal Isa: The talented sophomore missed most of last season with an elbow injury but looked solid in the all around during the Red Rock’s preview.
- Missy Reinstadtler: The injury-prone senior only performed vault and bars at the preview but says all around is the ultimate goal this season; it’ll be interesting to see what events she competes tonight.
- Other: Former Olympian and NCAA champion Courtney McCool-Griffeth and her husband will make their debut as part of the Utah coaching staff.
The meet will be at Utah’s Huntsman Center and, given that the Red Rocks have already surpassed their previous record of 9,300 season tickets, it’s sure to be a packed arena. You can watch the action Friday, January 3 at 8 p.m. ET on the Pac-12 Networks (if you need help figuring out how to tune in, CGN’s got you covered) and find live scores here.
It’s opening montage time, which means it’s almost meet time! May I just say how much I appreciate Jim Watson? He’s turned into quite a competent gymnastics commentator. Also, Jillian Hoffman has been spotted in a boot…
Rotation One: Utah vault, Kentucky bars
Soloski (Utah): Exhibition on vault, really high Yurchenko full with a stick. 9.800.
Angeny (Kentucky): shy on first handstand. Good straddled Jaeger. Again, shy on last handstand. Double lay dismount didn’t quite get the height, but it was a nice landing. 9.725.
Hall (Utah): Yurchenko 1.5, twisted really slow. Looks like she almost missed the table. Held onto the landing, though! 9.825
Nixon (Kentucky): Great handstands. Pretty shaposh. A little late on her pirouette, but double tuck dismount was huge. Small shuffle on the landing. 9.775.
Reinstadtler (Utah): Hey, she IS vaulting! Yurchenko full, very nice and flared out. Big hop on the landing (that’s fine; save those joints, girl). 9.775.
Albores (Kentucky): HUGE Tkatchev from the freshman. Looked a little tentative on a few handstands, several readjustments. Good double lay with a step. Solid debut for her!
O’Keefe (Utah): Twisted a little off the table on her Yurchenko full with a hop and step. 9.775? I wouldn’t have scored that the same as Reinstadtler’s, tbh…
Kwan (Kentucky): Nice Jaeger, but almost missed her overshoot. She’s off rhythm. Ugh… Falls on a handstand, has to do some improvising and only ekes out a double pike dismount with a painful landing.
Tessen (Utah): NICE Yurchenko one and a half with a college stick! 9.900, and I’m cool with that.
Still waiting for Kwan’s score, and Tom Farden is displeased! Finally, 9.00
Warren (Kentucky): Beautiful and big straddled Jaeger. Great bail to handstand. Shy on final handstand, but almost sticks the double lay. “California rolling stop,” says Jim. 9.800.
Burch (Utah): Good, she’s sticking with the Yurchenko full. Not a ton of amplitude, but great form and a solid landing. 9.825.
Korth (Kentucky): Gorgeous piked Jaeger. All her handstands have been money. Not her highest or tightest FTDL dismount, but lands it well. Fabulous routine to start off her season. 9.825.
AFTER ONE: UTAH 49.125, KENTUCKY 48.850
Both teams look “January good.” Utah has a lot of room for upgrades and finishing touches, but vault is in pretty decent shape. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Soloski bump O’Keefe from the lineup. Kentucky has a lot of talent on bars, but doesn’t look sharp yet (the handstands especially aren’t there yet). Korth set the standard as expected.
Rotation Two: Utah bars, Kentucky vault
Worley (Kentucky): BIG Yurchenko full with a step to start out. Really nice (and we know she can upgrade). 9.725 seems a little low compared to the first rotation scores.
LeBlanc (Utah): FAR staddled Jaeger to nice overshoot. A smidge short on her last handstand, but a pretty double layout dismount with a little hop. Good lead-off for the Utes. 9.775.
Angeny (Kentucky): High Yurchenko full without a ton of distance. Okay landing. 9.750.
Dula (Utah): Blind change to straddled Jaeger. A little off on bail. Good final handstand to a stuck double layout, very nice!
Warren (Kentucky): Late-twisting Yurchenko full with a little pike down, but nice height. 9.750.
Utah’s booing Dula’s score, for those of you at home playing NCAA Stereotypes Bingo! They’ve settled on a 9.875.
Isa (Utah): Oh no, comes off on her Ray! Beautiful pirouette to another stuck double layout, great finish. 9.375.
Kwan (Kentucky): Yikes, she almost missed the table… Puts it to her feet, but has to take a big hop forward. 9.625.
O’Keefe (Utah): My stream froze, so I missed the first half. Her Pak and final handstand were excellent, but a janky landing on the double Arabian dismount with several steps. 9.600
Patterson (Kentucky): Handspring piked half with some iffiness in the air and a big step on the landing, but so glad to see her in the lineup!
Reinstadtler (Utah): Handstands look great. Blind change to straddled Jaeger, great. FTDT had some form in the air and a small hop on the landing, but really nice. 9.825.
Korth (Kentucky): NAILS her Yurchenko one and a half, best vault tonight (with Tessen a close second). 9.875, seriously?
Tessen (Utah): Love her handstands. Piked Jaeger a hair close, but fine. Pretty bail to actual handstand. Holds that final handstand (not as long as at the Preview, but still good). FTDT dismount STUCK and Farden’s rightfully demanding applause. 9.925.
AFTER TWO: UTAH 98.125, KENTUCKY 97.725
Despite a few hiccups, Utah bars looks good (especially the little details). Kentucky was underscored compared to Utah (fight me), but certainly has some work to do on vault. They’re really going to depend on Worley and Patterson this season.
Rotation Three: Utah beam, Kentucky floor
Utah’s fan signs are sponsored by Young Living, which is hilarious.
LeBlanc (Utah): Swithc split to split quarter, good positions. Bhs loso, (red) rock solid. front aerial to split was a little bit off, but she saved it. Round off one and a half dismount with a small step. Great lead off for her. 9.725 seems a little low. We’ll see how it compares.
Montfredi (Kentucky): Front tuck to double tuck, a little low on the landing. Straddle to wolf full with great positions. High double pike to close, but a little deep landing. Covers it well, and finishes strong with fun choreo. Fun routine! 9.775.
Burch (Utah): Slightly off on her bhs loso series, but good poise. Leap series nice. Covers a bobble on her cat leap to front aerial. Gainer full with a small hop. 9.750. No way that should have outscored LeBlanc with so many bobbles.
Poland (Kentucky): I love her and her blue lipstick, but duuude… Careless Whisper? WHY? Front lay to a wobbly Rudi. Front handspring double full a tiny bit shy, but pretty in the air. Beautiful straddle jumps and a Shushanova to finish always makes me happy. 9.675.
Paulson (Utah): Gorgeous aerial loso. Good position on split series. Beat jump to full dismount. Short but sweet routine. Nice addition to the lineup. 9.850.
Worley (Kentucky): BIG FTDT to open, but lands with a foot out of bounds. Switch split to straddle, great. Very nice fhs, full, front lay. Double pike to finish and lands really deep. 9.650.
Isa (Utah): Candle mount. Great front toss to beat. Saves her bhs loso loso series after being off. Straddle to straddle quarter looks good. Bhs gainer full with a hop. Great way to bounce back after bars. 9.925 is too generous (especially compared to earlier scores).
Warren (Kentucky): Fhs to double full; some legs in the air, but a good landing. Good positions on her straddle series. Fhs Rudi to loso. Fhs full to a short lay, but she pulls it out. Her demeanor reminds me so much of Sidney Dukes. 9.750.
Randall (Utah): Slight bobble on the full turn. Bhs loso, good. Split jump to wolf is pretty good. A little off on her Rulfova but holds on with her legs. Round off one and a half dismount with a small step. 9.700.
Korth (Kentucky): Full-in with a low chest. Split series looks good. Fhs Rudi to loso, really powerful and floaty. Double pike, again with the chest low. Not her best, but not bad by any means. 9.800.
O’Keefe (Utah): Rock solid aerial loso. Switch split series with good positions. Leg up check on front aerial. Aerial to full dismount, stuck. 9.800… Come on, judges. It wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t a 9.800, either.
Kwan (Kentucky): Whip to one and a half to front pike, very pretty. Low landing on her double pike, big step forward. Ouch, kind of falls on one of her choreographed leaps (or maybe that was the choreo?). Tough night for her 🙁 9.625.
AFTER THREE: UTAH 147.175, KENTUCKY 146.375
On the whole, Utah looked really solid on beam. None of the mistakes looked like fundamental issues that can’t be corrected. Kentucky struggled on floor, which is a shame because they have some really fun routines and great skills! Hopefully, they just need a few more reps to smooth out the wrinkles and up their endurance.
Rotation Four: Utah floor, Kentucky beam
Harman (Kentucky): Ooh! Fun headstand thingy, I like it. Bhs bhs loso with a bobble. Front walkover with a check. Switch leap to gainer layout, small hip check. HIGH and stuck piked gainer dismount. Really cool skills throughout, glad to see her in the lineup. 9.775
Burch (Utah): Love her low floor opening choreo. Sky high double tuck with a step. Switch split to switch ring half, pretty shy on the latter. Excellent double pike. Front full to front lay with a little legs, but nice landings. Beautiful routine. 9.725.
Warren (Kentucky): Front aerial to bhs with a big break. Switch leap to straddle quarter series with a big pause. Second straddle quarter is better. Nearly stuck one and a half dismount. 9.625.
Judges conference, uh oh…
Paulson (Utah): Great double pike to open. Front lay to front full, gorgeous. Already enjoying this season’s choreo better than last. Switch split to switch full, nice amplitude. Front one and a half to loso. Great first meet for her! 9.825.
Poland (Kentucky): Bhs loso loso with a hip check, but she recovered well. One armed front walkover. Really enjoying the Wildcats’ diversity of skills. No issues on leaps. Tucked gainer full with a stick to finish. Nice! 9.750.
Randall (Utah): Over-rotated double tuck. Her Popa is one of the few good ones. Solid double pike. Front full to front lay with some leg form, but clean landings. (P.S. If anyone knows what her FX music is, please let me know.) 9.850.
Korth (Kentucky): One-armed bhs loso, excellent. Switch leap to gainer loso to beat, solid. Some legs on full (or was it a double?) dismount and a small shuffle, great routine. 9.875.
Isa (Utah): Big double tuck to open. Front full to front lay, excellent. She looks like she’s having fun. Gorgeous straddle positions on her leap series. Little short on double pike and bounces forward. Overall, nice routine. 9.725.
Worley (Kentucky): beat to straddle quarter, good. Interesting low beam choreo, really pretty. front aerial to bhs loso with a leg up, but she works through it. Round off one and a half dismount with a STICK. Another great freshman debut! 9.800.
Tessen (Utah): Fhs double full, gorgeous. Eee, more Shushanovas, please! Fun choreo and headstands. One and a half to front full with a little stutter step, but overall a great routine. 9.900.
Angeny (Kentucky): Wow, perfect bhs loso loso. Tiniest hip check on front aerial. Switch split to beat, love that she’s looking up while she does it. Side aerial to tucked back full DESPITE completely missing her foot. Beautiful set. 9.725 (in context with the other scores) is too low.
Soloski (Utah): Just short on her DLO, but hangs on. Switch split to switch split full, very powerful. Front full to front lay, again just short. One and a half to front lay with a stutter step. 9.900 is too high, especially next to Tessen’s.
AFTER FOUR: UTAH 196.425, KENTUCKY 195.300
It’s really a crime that Courtney McCool-Griffeth is relegated to a volunteer position, because this is the best Utah floor has looked in a long time. Despite some opening day nerves, Kentucky beam still looks like Kentucky beam in the best possible way.
Tonight’s scoring bounced weirdly between really tight and really Carol, with athletes on both teams getting gifts and getting hosed. The final results is correct, though. Both the Utes and Wildcats look to be about where they should be on January 3, and I’m looking forward to what the season holds for them!
Article by Claire Billman
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