Red Rocks win close call over Washington with “gritty performance”

_MG_4617 Emily Juchau

The Utah gymnastics team pulled off a 197.125-196.250 win over the Washington Huskies in front of another capacity crowd at the Huntsman Center on Saturday night.

The Red Rocks, who were competing to stay within the top six, felt they did so with consistent performances on vault, bars and floor. Co-head coach Tom Farden is happy they were able to get another win despite problems on beam. He is also pleased with how his gymnasts stepped up to replace some of the team’s top performers, who were sitting out for rest.

“It was a gritty performance,” Farden said. “We had some substitution things to deal with, but we had a great week of practice leading up to the meet. If this team has great practices, it leads to great things.”

The Red Rocks started off Saturday’s proceedings with a slow but decent start on the vault, tying their season-high score on the event.

Junior Baely Rowe went first and earned a 9.775. Senior Kassandra Lopez vaulted for the first time since her freshman season and earned a 9.80 along with sophomore Tiffani Lewis. Sophomore Samantha Partyka finished in the middle of the pack with a 9.850, and senior Breanna Hughes and sophomore Kailah Delaney capped off the vault with 9.90 performances, giving Utah the early lead.

On bars, Partyka’s continued consistency helped the Red Rocks start off in a decent spot, earning 9.80. Following Lewis’ 9.85, freshman Sabrina Schwab stole the show with her 9.95 routine. Lopez and Hughes followed with a 9.90 and a 9.80, respectively, while Rowe finished the second rotation with another 9.775.

Even though the Red Rocks had a comfortable lead heading into the third rotation, the beam seemed to get the best of the team. Hughes led the bunch with her changed routine song and a 9.825 score. Lopez followed with what seemed like a great routine but was handed a 9.775 by the judges, to the dismay of the home fans. Delaney fell on her routine, and both Rowe and sophomore Maddy Stover finished with 9.85 scores to redeem the event.

With the Huskies performing well on the floor, Utah’s lead was cut to .350, and the Red Rocks had to get the job done on the floor in the final rotation.

Freshman MaKenna Merrell kicked things off with a 9.825 routine, followed by Lewis, with a well-received 9.925. Stover, who filled in for a resting Partyka, showed well with her 9.825 routine. Delaney built off the energy of the crowd and made up for her beam blunder by earning a 9.875. Schwab earned her highest routine score in her freshman career with a 9.925, and Hughes finished things off in style by earning a near-perfect 10 with her 9.975 finish.

Though the Red Rocks took care of business over UW, there are still concerning issues the team must address, but Farden is confident Utah will be able to do so.

“We need to focus on our performances,” Farden said. “Obviously we can’t control what the judges are scoring our routines, but with Delaney [on beam], that was a very uncharacteristic fall for her. We don’t normally see that from her. I was proud with the balance beam and how they came back as a team. That event continues to evolve with more confidence.”

Stover, who helped the team rebound after Delaney’s fall, had a night of redemption after making her fair share of mistakes in previous showings.

“You can only control yourself and your performances,” Stover said. “I just went out there just like I would approached if [Delaney hit her routine]. I just need to pull through for my team and to redeem myself from my last beam set as well.”

With another win in the bag, the Red Rocks will now be looking towards another week of training before they head out on the road for the next three meets.

c.marquez@dailyutahchronicle.com

@chad_marquez