Gymnastics: Red Rocks defeat SUU in season road opener

maddy stover on balance beam vs. suu Emily Juchau

The No. 7 Utah gymnastics team had a sensational start to its routines Friday night in Cedar City as the Red Rocks defeated 30th-ranked SUU 196.725-195.600. Senior and team leader Brianna Hughes led the way with impressive bar and vault routines, having a career night away from home, while Samantha Patryka and Karli Lee stole the show on the beam.

Though it was a solid night from all of the Red Rocks, things started to look bleak before the meet began, when three-event senior Kailah Delaney injured her knee during warm-ups, causing problems for the Utah coaching staff. Co-head coaches Megan Marsden and Tom Farden were forced to change the team’s lineup right before walk-outs.

Even though things didn’t go according to plan prior to the meet beginning, the Red Rocks started out solidly on the bars. Hughes and fellow senior Kassandra Lopez stole the show with a back-to-back 9.925 scores. Adding to the overall score were 9.875 routines from Sabrina Schwab, Baely Rowe and Tiffani Lewis.

Hughes also led the way on the vault, earning a 9.90 and another event title for the Red Rocks on the night. Lewis followed closely with a 9.85. Even though scores for the vault were lower than expected team-wise, it was enough to get by the Thunderbirds, who were close to taking the lead after the two events.

With a hostile crowd cheering their home team on, the Red Rocks continued to work and impress with steady leads in the floor and beam routines. Hughes once again took charge on the floor, having a leading routine with a 9.875. This was followed by Schwab, who took a 9.85 finish. Both Lewis and Lee had disappointing moments during their routines, with Lewis being docked and Lee falling from her finishing double-back for the second week in a row.

Though beam was also full of mixed results, Patryka and Lee dazzled the away support with a 9.90 tie to lead the team in the routine. Rowe fell on her routine, subsequently adding pressure on the final performance for Maddie Stover. With SUU closing in on the Red Rocks due to their great results on the beam, Stover finished with a 9.85 to give the advantage — and win — to Utah. Farden was impressed by Lee and Patryka and their routines on the beam.

“Patryka and Lee were poetry on the balance beam,” Farden said in a press release. “They floated up there.”

The goal of this season’s first away meet was to give experience to a young Red Rocks team and perform well in a tough crowd. Farden felt his team did just that and performed in spectacular fashion early on with the issues and injuries at hand. He added, however, that the Utes need to improve on their last two routines in order to continue their climb back to a Super-Six position.

“We came out firing on bars and vault,” Farden said in the release. “On floor, we’re still not sticking some landings, and some of our beam routines were not as aggressive as we’d like, but overall it was a good step forward. We are moving in the right direction and handled the hostile environment like champions.”

With a 2-0 start to begin the season, the Red Rocks will now prepare for their Pac-12 opener next week as they welcome Oregon State in their first home matinee in school history next Saturday.

c.marquez@dailyutahchronicle.com

@chad_marquez