LIVE BLOG: No. 41 Washington at No. 4 Utah

This meet is, hilariously enough, a rematch of the 2020 Pac-12 regular season title match. Remember when Washington and Utah both came into their dual undefeated in-conference and the regular season title (which ended up being the only conference title awarded) was on the line and then Washington came within a tenth of winning it? Just me? OK, fine.

This meet… might not go the same way as the 2020 iteration. Washington was on the ropes last week at Oregon State, with only eight gymnasts apparently in competition shape and vault and floor lineups of just five gymnasts. Katie McNamara was scratched from vault after a strange miss in touch warm up but was able to return later on in the meet, so hopefully she’ll be able to supply a sixth vault. Either way, these Huskies look underprepared and badly lacking in depth. That said, plenty of teams have recovered from a rough first outing this year, so there’s no reason to panic.

On the other side of the arena, the Utes look steady and reliable, building difficulty in a safe and sustainable way. Vault upgrades led to a season high on that event last week, and marginal improvements on landings are all this team needs to contend with the country’s top squads.

Rotation 1: Utah vault, Washington bars

We missed the first couple routines because they moved the meet to a different network at the last possible second and in the five minutes it took me to figure it out three different routines happened 🙁

What we missed are two FTYs for Utah, 9.775 for Cristal Isa and 9.825 for Maile O’Keefe, and a 9.85 for Skylar Killough-Wilhelm on bars

McNamara (UW): Blind to Jeger, caught slightly on her wrists but nothing catastrophic, Pak high with leg separation to switch kip. Blind full awkward to double back and touches down with her hands. 9.25

Stanhope (UU): One and a half, slightly lock legged with a bounce in place but really solid. 9.85

Bowles (UW): Good first handstand, giant to Deltchev to overshoot pretty clean. She always has a bit of knee bend in one leg on the Deltchev. Blind full double back with a big step back. 9.575

Hall (UU): One and a half with her usual leg form break on the table but stuck dead. Looks disoriented as she lands it. Is she crying? I don’t know what happened there. 9.85

Thomas (UW): Muscley cast handstands, blind to Jaeger and falls. She was super close. May have fallen again on her blind full double back, couldn’t tell if her knees touched down. 8.4

Burch (UU): Another stick! This rotation is going places. In replay, serious leg form on the table again. 9.925

Thompson (UW): Jaeger a little close with soft elbows, okay not great bail, FTDB pretty with a few little steps. 9.7

Rucker (UU): Lands her 1.5 short and lock legged with three or four big steps back. 9.525

Wickman (UW): Blind to pike Jaeger to overshoot, great, shy on the high bar, blind full double back a little underrotated but fake-sticks it before stepping to salute. BIG deal for this lineup that she’s back after not even traveling last week. 9.725

After 1: Utah 49.225, Washington 48.100

This is actually an improvement for Washington bars from last week! A counted fall, but handstands look MUCH better and dismounts marginally improved.

The landings were phenomenal for the Utes today, with some technical work to do on the table to really get the scores up. 

Rotation 2:

Smith (UW): Yurchenko tuck full, hop back. She was recruited for her 10.0 vault. What I wouldn’t give for a competent vault coach for this team. 9.675

Paulson (UU): Maloney, very minor leg separation in the backswing, to Pak. Hitting handstands, blind full double back with a little hop. 9.85

Killough-Wilhelm (UW): Really pretty FTY, great leg form on the table, hop back. 9.775

Sabado (UU): Blind to Jaeger, pretty,  missed a cast handstand quite badly, toe on to bail to toe shoot with slightly loose foot form. Double layout weird, tucked in the first salto, maybe she thought she was too close to the bar? But solid landing. 9.775

Cunningham (UW): Flare out on her FTY with a small hop back. Good one. 9.85

Burch (UU): Solid Jaeger, good bail, legs together on her DLO with a hop back. 9.775

Thompson (UW): FTY, good in the air, tried to stick it for a second but ended up having to step forward. 9.75

O’Keefe (UU): Maloney to Pak, splits her legs at the last second but gorgeous otherwise, back arch in her half turn on the low bar. Plants her double Arabian which is pretty much a weekly thing now. 9.875

McNamara (UW): College vault debut after she was scratched last week due to a weird fall in warm ups. Yurchenko full on, tuck off with a step back. Decent height in a difficult vault to get a solid block from. 9.8

LeBlanc (UU): Blind a touch late to pretty Jaeger to overshoot. Shy on a high bar handstand, double lay pretty with a hop back. 9.875

Thomas (UW): Yurchenko layout, pikey but stuck with an arm swing. Hopefully there’s an exhibition coming up here with more difficulty, I saw someone new in the vault huddle today. 9.525

Isa (UU): Ray, back a bit arched on the catch, good bail. Blind full gorgeous to double lay, scoot back and another step quickly into salute. That dismount connection is so impressive even after watching it for years. 9.925

After 2: Utah 98.525, Washington 96.950

Washington’s improved a tenth on both events compared to last week. Apparently the Huskies didn’t start training as a team until December, so a lot of growth is going to have to happen during the season.

Utah looked solid on bars, with some minor work on bars to do particularly in dismounts. The Utes look steady and well on their way to another 197.

Rotation 3: Utah beam, Washington floor

LeBlanc (UU): Switch to split 1/4, BHS LOSO and falls. Front aerial to split, BHS 1.5 with a step. 9.25

Smith (UW): Double back, good landing, Rudi double stag with crossed legs in the air. Geneva Thompson is the most dramatic backup dancer, she’s way more committed to this than Smith is. Wolf 3/2 tuck 1/1, one and a half front lay a bit archy with leg sep but securely landed. 9.725

Burch (UU): Full turn, BHS LOSO solid, straddle to double stag. Cat leap front aerial. Burch is such a resilient athlete, one who really feels like she can will a good routine in adverse circumstances. Gainer full stuck.  9.9

McNamara (UW): Rudi to stag, travels back quite a bit in the leap. Front combo pass super solid. I always expect a third pass but she makes up difficulty with a turning leap that happens in the literal first second of the routine and I miss it. 9.75

Randall (UU): BHS LOSO good, beat to sheep super solid, Rulfova. She’s stone cold. Stuck the one and a half. Stone cold. 9.875. Alicia thought it would be a 10… girl. 

Wickman (UW): She’s the new addition to the lineup to bring the team up to six-up. Front double full badly underrotated and scary, switch side Popa pretty with great extension. One and a half front lay good, Rudi. Good lunges on the latter two landings. 9.7

Isa (UU): Great triple series, full turn, having fun on the choreograph. Straddle straddle 1/4 always looks like it’s hard work for her but got the positions, BHS gainer full with a little scoot back. 9.85

Killough-Wilhelm (UW): Rebound back on her double tuck but stays in bounds. Front double full even scarier than Wickman’s. Switch ring switch half solid, one and a half front lay almost stuck. 9.6

O’Keefe (UU): Side aerial LOSO with a touch of feet, switch to split, not sure she got the split on that second one. Full turn pretty, cat leap side aerial back full. Zero hesitation on any of that. 10!!!!!

Thompson (UW): Double back a little deep with an extra step back. Tour jete half tour jete kind awkward, front lay front full and falls. Weird miss. Rudi to just bounce in the air. Huskies not vibing with floor today, it was the best event last week. 8.75

Paulson (UU): Side aerial LOSO good. Switch to split, full turn, cat leap side aerial back full stuck. 9.95

Cunningham (UW): Front through double back, emphatic. Switch half wolf full wolf full with very clear rotation, great double pike. Really good and plenty to drop the Thompson routine.

After 3: Utah 148.100, Washington 145.600

O’Keefe is going to be the story of the week. Arguably overdue and certainly a true representation of the caliber of gymnast she is. This is the first time this year that Utah beam has really caught fire like it did repeatedly in 2020, but it won’t be the last.

Washington has now improved marginally on all three events. Not counting a fall on beam can really solidify the progress made in this meet. I’d also like less ligament-threatening floor landings, but hey, one thing at a time.

Rotation 4:

McNamara (UW): Full turn, BHS LOSO and off just as Sacramone was saying she shouldn’t. Cat leap switch half beat, side aerial back tuck full stuck. 9.125

Paulson (UU): Front lay front full stag jump, gorgeous. Two and a half twist really well controlled, switch to switch full, good one and a half front lay combo pass to finish up. She’s apparently planning to add a triple twist in sometime soon. 9.9

Brovedani (UW): Front aerial BHS good, cat leap switch ring actually kinda pretty which is a rarity in NCAA. Side aerial good, full turn a little tentative, beat jump side aerial tuck back full with a step. Good recovery. 9.55 they must have taken her acro series because there weren’t any big problems there.

Randall (UU): Double tuck underrotated with a step forward, triple leap pass really cleanly rotated. Things often get sloppy with the foot positions in those. Good double pike, one and a half front lay well controlled. 9.8

Thompson (UW): Fell last week in her college beam debut. I’m trying to negative-curse this by being pessimistic. Full turn, switch split 3/4 good, BHS LOSO a bit straddled in the air but landed well. One and a half twist with a step forward. 9.8

EDIT: This routine was originally scored at 9.6 and Thompson got two tenths back in post-meet score adjudication, presumably for a connection that wasn’t initially credited.

Stanhope (UU): Full-in lands a bit heavy but lunges out well. One where you definitely hear the springs in the floor rattle. Double back, again mildly off balance, iffy rotation on her wolf full. One and a half front lay really good. 9.825

Thomas (UW): Full turn, kickover front BHS with a check but avoids making huge drama out of it. Switch straddle 1/4 good, one and a half with a cross step in front. 9.65

Rucker (UU): Half in half out underrotated, big step forward. Switch half split full wolf full good, her choreography really works for her. Front lay front full solid. 9.85

Bowles (UW): Side aerial BHS, leans and falls. Split jump to wolf full is good, beat jump side aerial back full stuck despite missing a foot on the aerial

O’Keefe (UU): Short on her double pike, hop forward, front lay front full good. Tour jete full, one and a half front lay pretty solid. 9.825

Killough-Wilhelm (UW): BHS LOSO with a smaller bend check, full turn, kickover front to beat super straight. Switch to sissone, side aerial one and a half with a step back to salute. 9.775

Soloski (UU): Double lay, typical shape funkiness in the second salto, switch half split full great. Front lay front full well-controlled, one and a half front lay is in the air for AGES. 9.975

FINAL: Utah 197.475, Washington 193.500

That’s a superb season high for Utah and getting the beam 9.9 machine fired up for the first time is great news. If the Utes want to get to a final four and seriously contend once they’re there, beam is their biggest weapon. Utah bumps Oklahoma in the current rankings, though Oklahoma has a chance to get revenge. 

Washington’s freshman-heavy roster still looks underprepared and overwhelmed by the pressure, but the team made marginal improvements over all four of last week’s event scores. Cutting falls out and working on conditioning are the immediate targets.

VT: Alexia Burch (UU) 9.925
UB: Cristal Isa (UU) 9.925
BB: Maile O’Keefe (UU) 10.000
FX: Sydney Soloski (UU) 9.975
AA: Maile O’Keefe (UU) 39.525

Live blog by Rebecca Scally

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