Utah Gymnastics crushes BYU in debut

SALT LAKE CITY — In the preseason, the Red Rocks clearly stated their intention to establish themselves as national title contenders right out of the gates, and that happened Friday at the Huntsman Center with a lopsided victory over rival BYU.

More than 14,000 people were on hand to watch Utah gymnastics explode for a 197.000-194.275 win over the Cougars.

“We were really pleased with three of our four events,” said Utah co-coach Tom Farden. “We survived an off night on beam, but didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot. Every other event, what we saw tonight is what we’re seeing in the gym every day.”

MyKayla Skinner, who set the Utah single-season all-around win record as a freshman last year with 12, tied the all-around with teammate MaKenna Merrell-Giles, who had a 39.475. Merrell-Giles scored the highest score of the night in any event with a 9.925 on the floor, while Skinner picked up individual event titles on bars (9.90) and beam (9.90).

“I’ve been sick for about a week and a half and I haven’t done many endurance routines on floor, so I was kind of tired on that last pass,” Skinner said. “I was really happy with my bar and beam routines though.”

“MyKayla is human,” laughed Farden. “She’s been fighting a head cold and congestion, but when a teammate ties her, it is healthy for the whole team.”

The Utes jumped out to a quick lead in the first rotation, scoring a 49.325 on vault to BYU’s 47.850 on bars, and the outcome was never in doubt after that. BYU was led by the sophomore out of American Fork, Shannon Hortman-Evans. Her 38.900 was good enough for third in the all-around.

For Utah, it marked just the third time in school history—and the first time in 13 years—that the Utes reached the 197 benchmark in their first meet. It is also the third-best season-opening score ever for the Utes, who beat UCLA on the road in 2004 with a 197.350, and again at home in 2005 with a 197.675.

Next up for the Utes is the Elevate the Stage quad meet in Reno, Nevada on January 14 against UCLA, Washington and Stanford.