Gilstrap Utah

LIVE BLOG: No. 6 LSU at No. 3 Utah

It’s time, it’s time, it’s time! The day we’ve waited for for 265 long, grueling days! (You mean you weren’t counting?) We have a top 10 SEC/Pac-12 showdown for you tonight, and it’s one that promises to provide lots of entertainment.  

Utah is coming into the opening week ranked No. 1 in the Pac-12 preseason coaches poll. Sophomore Grace McCallum and freshman Makenna Smith were named to the Pac-12 watchlist, but they are not the only stars we’re looking to see succeed tonight. The senior class, headlined by Cristal Isa, Maile O’Keefe and fifth-year Michigan transfer Abby Brenner, will be looking to make a splash in the Huntsman Center. Look to see how the Utes have spent the last month in the gym since the Red Rocks preview, particularly on beam where they had a few wobbles.

LSU comes into tonight beginning its road to redemption. After a less than stellar performance in last year’s postseason, the Tigers are hungrier than ever. They made an impressive showing at Gym 101 with the highlights being the vault and beam rotations. Bars is where the Tigers will start tonight, and it is the event that head coach Jay Clark has said has the least amount of depth. The Tigers will need to be clean on their handstands and stick their dismounts if they want to keep pace with the Utes on their home turf. Also look to see if sophomore Aleah Finnegan makes her all-around debut (she was slated for all four in the meet notes potential lineups) or if Clark sticks with his usual dependables in Haleigh Bryant and Kiya Johnson—or goes for all three.

Good evening! Have we recovered from the chaos thus far? No? Good, because we’ve some more coming your way. Here’s lineups for Utah! Of note, Cristal Isa is returning to competition after suffering a sprained ankle during preseason training! Trent Wood from Deseret gave us a peek at LSU’s lineups, looking like we will see Bryant, Finnegan, and Johnson in the all-around tonight.

Still waiting on my stream to start. Wouldn’t be season without a delayed stream. Alrighty, now we’re ready!

Rotation 1: Utah vault, LSU bars

Hoffman VT: Yurchenko full, good distance, big hop backwards. 9.825

Ki. Johnson UB: Mount on low bar, Maloney to immediate bail, leg separation on the Maloney, double layout with a hop back. Handstands were spot on though! 9.775

Brenner VT: Yurchenko 1.5, the POWER. Would’ve liked more distance, but the landing was so good! 9.875

Arenas UB: mount on high bar, Tkatchev to immediate pak salto. There was a visible leg separation and caught the low bar close, so it will be a sizeable deduction. Double layout dismount, straddled legs, with a hop. This will be the drop score. 9.750. A bit higher than I thought.

Stanhope VT: Yurchenko 1.5, much more distance than the previous one, but more of a hop. 9.875

Jeffery UB: Mount on low bar, Maloney to Pak salto, minor leg separation, open half-in half-out dismount with a stick. LSU needed that stick with the way the landings have been so far. 9.875

Smith VT: Omelianchik in the NCAA! Distance was so so good because of the block she got, minor hop forward, but what a debut! 9.900

Finnegan UB: PIKED DELTCHEV. If you know, you know. Bail to handstand was gorgeous, lost her figure on the handstand ever so slightly, but a good landing on that dismount! 9.750

McCallum VT: Yurchenko 1.5 and sits it down. Underrotated. Shame because I was really hoping she’d do well. 9.300

Schennikova UB: Ray to Pak salto combination was pretty, basically her usual. Double layout, piked in the second layout but one of the better landings. 9.775

Rucker VT: The national vault champion has arrived! Yurchenko 1.5 with a step forward. Trying to avoid counting a fall. 9.875

Bryant UB: Handstands were absolutely fabulous. Straddled jaeger to bail handstand. Double front with a half, which is new for her! Perfect way to start her junior season! 9.825

After 1: Utah 49.350, LSU 49.000

Honestly, it’s about what I expected. Utah’s vault has seen a lot of improvement comparatively speaking and once those landings get honed in, it’s only going to get better. We knew bars would be weak for LSU going in, so the goal going forward will be to fine tune those landings and some of the handstands. Vault is a power event for LSU, so there’s room to improve their scores.

Rotation 2: LSU vault, Utah bars

Arenas VT: Yurchenko full, legs glued together until the tail end, but a stutter step in place. 9.850

Smith UB: Maloney to Pak salto, legs perfectly together. Transition back to high bar and then that double arabian STUCK dismount! She was ranked five stars for a reason, folks.

Shchennikova VT: Yurchenko 1.5, pretty form in the air and just barely stayed in the new vault lines. 9.825

Brenner UB: Honestly, we were talking about the vault lines and I missed part of it, but the double layout was the best with a minor hop back. Lost some form on her transitions though. 9.800

Finnegan VT: Battle of the Omelianchiks! Just a step forward on the landing. Such pretty form! 9.850

Thompson UB: Mount on high bar, Pak salto was beautiful, Maloney transition back to high bar to the in-bars Geinger, double layout dismount. There was a leg separation, but KJC thinks it’s intentional so I believe her. 9.800

KJ Johnson VT: Yurchenko full, she has all the power in the world. Legs glued, hips opened and flared, stutter step in the landing. 9.775…huh?

O’Keefe UB: Mount on low bar, Maloney to Bail handstand, might’ve been short on the last handstand, double arabian dismount stuck. It was pretty, but small leg separations will knock the door down just a little bit. 9.850

Ki. Johnson VT: Yurchenko double twist, small leg separation off the table, but the distance and landing make up for it! 9.875

Isa UB: Tkatchev was pretty, overcooked that Bail to handstand, so the leg bend will be a deduction, double layout dismount. 9.775

Bryant VT: FHS pike half with a hop back. Open body with a leg separation at the end. 9.900

McCallum UB: Maloney to Pak salto, toe on to Maloney half, beautiful handstands, half in half out dismount. She definitely erased that fall on vault with that performance on bars. Nicely done for the anchor. 9.925

After 2: Utah 98.575, LSU 98.300

LSU made up 0.025 difference on vault. I’m still slightly confused on the KJ Johnson score, but it looks like the judges have decided to take that deduction for not landing within the lines. Utah’s bars were really good, McCallum as the anchor is a good decision with how clean she was. This next event was a weak spot for the Utes at the Red Rocks Preview, so this could be the rotation where LSU has the best chance to sneak ahead.

Rotation 3: Utah beam, LSU floor

Morgan BB: Beautiful mount, BHS BHS LOSO, split jump to split half leap series, wobble on the full turn but covered it well. Swingthrough to front full dismount. That’s really creative and I loved it so much. 9.825.

Ballard FX: She reminds me of Gnat on floor the way she performs. Double layout first pass, super controlled on that landing. Back 1.5 to front layout to stag jump, her landings have improved immensely! Switch ring + switch half to one knee, double pike ending pass. If that stays the leadoff, I won’t be mad because it was beautiful! 9.825

Isa BB: She did her first full routine post injury yesterday?? I’m impressed. Candle mount to open, BHS LOSO LOSO. Utah is the team of the triple series, I see. Lots of confidence on her leap series and the flash of the U. BHS to gainer full dismount. I’m SO HAPPY SHE’S BACK! 9.875.

Shchennikova FX: Front double full to open, stuttered out of it but covered with the arabesque. Back 1.5 to front layout for her second pass. Switch leap to switch half leap series was better, but I would’ve liked a touch more 180 on the leap series. FHS rudi to split jump, major travel back. Good opener but room for improvement! 9.825

McCallum BB: She just did a triple wolf turn?! Followed by a double wolf turn, but might not get the connection. BHS LOSO with a wobble at the end. Leaps were connected much better. Her choreography is gorgeous though! Tucked gainer full off the end of the beam dismount. Good, but the nerves will cause a little bit of deductions. 9.875.

Cammy Hall sighting awwww

KJ Johnson FX: Full-in for her first pass, back 1.5 to front layout second pass. Both looked good, but the first one might have a landing deduction. Switch side to Popa, toe point wasn’t quite all the way there. Double tuck final pass, stepped out of bounds. This is usually a power event for her so I expect she’ll bounce back. 9.500

Paulson BB: Side aerial to LOSO series was pretty. KJC praised the leap position on the sissone, which I agree. She’s automatically my favorite because Taylor Swift beam music. Beat jump to side aerial to 1.5 twist. 9.875

Finnegan FX: Double arabian to stag jump, STUCK!  I think I like this routine better than last year’s. BHS 2.5 twist to front tuck, so controlled!  Switch ring + tour jete half leap series, going really well so far! Final pass is a back 1.5 to front layout, also very controlled. This is going to be a routine to watch this season. 9.950, career high for Finnegan!

Eaker BB: Switch leap mount, almost looked like she could’ve missed the beam but didn’t. Didn’t do her typical second leap because of it. Side aerial to LOSO series, pretty. She has more confidence now and I’m all for it. BHS gainer full with a hop back. Good opening routine for her! 9.900.

Bryant FX: FHS double front first pass, controlled step forward, good as usual. Second pass is a front layout to rudi. Switch ring + switch half, the flexibility and split positions are on point. Third pass is a FHS front double twist with a slightly less controlled step forward. Loving that routine! 9.875

O’Keefe BB: Side aerial to LOSO series, off ever so slightly but saved it. Toe point on her leap series was good. The control on the front turn was even better. BHS gainer full dismount. What a way to end that rotation! 9.950.

Ki. Johnson FX: It always makes me nervous when she does floor. Full-in first pass, very well controlled landing. Second pass is a back 1.5 to front layout and made SURE you knew it was controlled. Switch half + Popa leap series, final pass is double pike, STUCK. I mean…it was that GOOD for her first time out. 9.900.

After 3: Utah 148.050, LSU 147.675

What LSU got back on vault, Utah got further ahead. That beam rotation was much improved from the Red Rocks preview with two 9.900 plus scores at the back end of that lineup. Finnegan was the highlight of that floor rotation for LSU, notching a career high with that beautiful routine. Kiya Johnson’s routine will be one to watch during her swan song season *cries*.

Rotation 4: LSU beam, Utah floor

Rivers BB: BHS LOSO series, arm wobbles and a step but saved it somehow. Switch half + straddle quarter, slowly getting her confidence back. RO double twist dismount. After that first wobble, it was much better! It’ll easily replace Desiderio. 9.700.

Paulson FX: Front through to 2.5 twist combination first pass, very nicely controlled on that landing. Front layout to front full, soft knees so that will be a form deduction. Third pass is a back 1.5 to front layout, knees were much better on that second layout. 9.800.

Wilson BB: Freshman debut! BHS LOSO series, nailed it. Switch leap + straddle quarter, um, holy cow the HEIGHT?? Ma’am?? Front aerial, very well controlled. BHS BHS two feet to double twist dismount. Only question is will they give her credit for the leap connections because there was a pause, but I hope they do. 9.775.

Gilstrap FX: Front layout to front 1.5 first pass, very well controlled. This piano music is very soothing, which is not something I thought I’d ever say about a gymnastics meet. And of course, her choreography is stellar as always. Last pass is front layout to front full. Beautiful! 9.850.

KJ Johnson BB: I want redemption from her floor so bad. Am loving that mount! Switch leap to straddle quarter was connected beautifully, BHS LOSO series, well controlled. Side aerial to sissone series. BHS 1.5 dismount. Very nicely done for someone who didn’t compete beam for LSU last season! Hopefully that stays in! 9.725.

O’Keefe FX: I refuse to believe she’s a senior. Double pike first pass, controlled with good height. Second pass is front layout to front full, knees weren’t perfect but still good. Final pass is back 1.5 to front layout, beautiful as always! She can’t be a senior. That’s all.

Bryant BB: Front aerial to BHS series was very nicely done (one of the few that’s been hit today!), switch leap + straddle quarter, arms were moving so she will get the connection. Standing front tuck, yes MA’AM! Front 1.5 dismount off the end of the beam. Nicely done! 9.850.

Smith FX: Front double twist first pass, good technique with a  side step forward. Second pass was a front 1.5 to back LOSO and the height was spot on. You wouldn’t know she’s a freshman based on her performance today. Last pass, 2.5 twist. What a debut for the freshman! 9.875.

Finnegan BB: Let’s see how she finishes her AA debut. Candle mount with a half twist, impressive! BHS LO LOSO, best triple series today. Leap series was spot on position wise. Front aerial, she’s giving Sarah Finness-igan vibes. Gainer full dismount with a college stick. Great day for the sophomore! 9.900

McCallum FX: Full twisting double back first pass, controlled landing. The toe point on the leap series was impeccable. Front layout to Rudi last pass. Short, sweet, and to the point. This all-around battle has been fierce tonight! Great way to come back after a miss on vault! 9.850.

Ki. Johnson BB: Needing a 9.925 to clinch AA which she can do. BHS LOSO, controlled landing. Switch leap + switch leap + split jump, toes needed to be pointed just a touch more. Front toss, the smallest of wobbles. BHS 1.5 twist dismount, a small step forward. I’m not sure if that’ll give her the all-around but a stellar debut for the senior! 9.800.

Rucker FX: Let’s finish this off! Double arabian first pass, underrotated and rolls backwards out of it. They didn’t need this routine to win, but it would’ve been nice for her to hit. Front layout to front full final pass, good redemption landing. Shame on that first pass because that would’ve been such a nice routine! 9.000.

FINAL: Utah 197.275, LSU 196.725

Utah takes it by over half a point. Starting beam with three 9.700 scores hurt LSU, but they came back strong at the end of the rotation. Utah’s floor was impressive, they’re already looking like a nationals contender once again. Both teams will want to hone in on those landings before getting back out there next week, but for the opening of the season, it was a great showing!

VT: Makenna Smith (Utah) & Haleigh Bryant (LSU) – 9.900
UB: Grace McCallum (Utah) – 9.925
BB: Maile O’Keefe (Utah) – 9.950
FX: Aleah Finnegan (LSU) – 9.950
AA: Haleigh Bryant & Aleah Finnegan (LSU) – 39.450

READ THIS NEXT: Utah and LSU to Cross Conferences and Team Personnel at Friday Showdown

Live blog by Savanna Whitten

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