Just two weeks into the gymnastics season might be too soon to make many proclamations about Utah’s gymnastics team, but one thing seems solid — the Utes have a reliable beam team.
The young Utes handled the chaotic atmosphere of the Best of Utah quad meet Saturday as well as anyone could have hoped, scoring a 49.225 in their 197 winning effort.
The Utes earned a 49.1 on the event in the season opener against Kentucky, giving them an average of 49.188 that ranks them sixth nationally.
“We have done a nice job with all of our counting scores over 9.825 last week,” Utah coach Tom Farden said. “It was a strong showing but we still have room to grow.”
The Utes are experimenting with their lineups to find the right combinations but beam seems to be the one closest to finding its groove. Transfer Emilie LeBlanc leads off the lineup, followed by junior Alexia Burch, then freshman Abby Paulson.
LeBlanc, a junior who transferred from Maryland, seems a natural in the leadoff spot, while Paulson, who scored a 9.9 Saturday, has confidence beyond her rookie status.
“Abby is someone who wholeheartedly admits she is a beamer,” Farden said. “She loves beam so she is in the right spot.”
Cristal Isa, who follows Paulson, has a light-hearted, dancing approach to the beam that makes her routines seem effortless. Sophomore Adrienne Randall is in the fifth spot, with freshman Maile O’Keefe anchoring the lineup.
That the Utes have a freshman in the pressure spot is unusual, but as a three-year member of the National Team, O’Keefe is accustomed to pressure.
“I’ve watched her on the biggest stage at international competitions and she has always been aggressive and attacks the beam,” Farden said. “She has embraced that role.”
Even though Farden feels good about the beam lineup as it is, he said others such as Kim Tessen, Missy Reinstadtler and Sydney Soloski are pushing to break into the lineup as well.
“We have a lot of healthy, motivated gymnasts who are excited about the season and they are pushing things,” he said.
While the Utes have a good handle on the beam depth, Farden plans to spend this bye week examining other events and the lineups. Utah is off to a good start, but the Utes have to keep improving, he said.
“We are going to focus in on some details and tighten up some things in execution,” he said. “I see quarter and half-tenths everywhere and if we can improve on those, we can get near the 197.5 or 198 mark. We want to start chasing that.”
NCAA gymnastics rankings
Ranking Team Average
1. Oklahoma 197.513
2. Florida 197.35
3. Denver 196.725
4. Utah 196.713
5. UCLA 196.688
6. Minnesota 196.475
7. LSU 196.225
8. Maryland 196.15
9. Alabama 196.025
10. Nebraska 195.988
11. Kentucky 195.938
12. Iowa St. 195.75
13. Illinois 195.688
14. Central Mich. 195.675
15. BYU 195.663
16. Michigan 195.65
17. Georgia 195.625
18. California 195.575
19. Missouri 195.55
20. Auburn 195.5
21. Arizona 195.488
22. Boise St. 195.475
23. Washington 195.35
24. West Va. 195.325
25. Stanford 195.088