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Utan Red Rocks fall short of NCAA gymnastics national title

The Red Rocks led after three rotations, but a crucial low score on vault doomed them.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Coach Carly Dockendorf as Utah hosts Boise State, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024.

Vault has been up and down for the Utah Red Rocks over the years. Sometimes it was the event that moved them forward in the postseason. For others it was the reason for disappointment.

On Saturday, Utah’s NCAA National Championship title once again hinged on vault – this time maintaining a slim lead by standing out in the event.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t quite pull it off.

The Red Rocks finished third in the national championship finals with a score of 197.800. LSU earned its first gymnastics championship in school history.

Utah was in first place by less than a tenth of a point in the final rotation. But both Camie Winger and Ella Zirbes, who came first and second, scored 9.2875 and 9.6750 respectively. Even though Winger’s scoring dropped, Utah couldn’t overcome Zirbes’ scoring combined with the way LSU ran its beam rotation.

The Tigers’ Savannah Schoenherr fell during her beam routine. But the other five in the lineup scored at least a 9.950 to secure the win.

The Red Rocks started the meet on the uneven bars, an event that caused them trouble in the regional finals. Only two gymnasts had scores above 9.900, leading to a third-place finish for Utah after the first rotation.

Utah moved into second place halfway through the game, exactly one-tenth of a point behind LSU. Three Red Rocks scored above 9,900 in what is widely considered their best event.

“We’re going to stay focused until the end,” coach Carly Dockendorf said in a live interview on the ESPN broadcast after the beam rotation.

On floor, the Red Rocks performed some of the best gymnastics of the entire season. None of the six gymnasts scored below 9.900, putting Utah ahead after three rotations. The lead was less than a tenth of a point ahead of the Tigers, and just 0.15 ahead of Cal.

Meet results

• LSU — 198.2250

• Cal — 197.8500

• Utah — 197.8000

•Florida — 197.4375

Top scores in Utah

Rods

• Grace McCallum — 9,950

• Maile O’Keefe — 9,900

Ray

• McCallum — 9.9375

• Amélie Morgan — 9.9125

Floor

• Jaylene Gilstrap, Abby Paulson, O’Keefe — 9.9250

Safe

• Makenna Smith, Ashley Glynn — 9.9125