SEATTLE (ABC4 Sports) -The Utah gymnastics team overcame a big loss during pre-meet warmups to win its Pac-12 season opener at No. 19 Washington 197.150-196.300. The No. 4 Utes lost freshman two-event starter Kim Tessen to a torn Achilles on their third warm-up rotation on floor. It is the second season-ending injury in two weeks for the Utes. All-American and 2016 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Sabrina Schwab tore her ACL on Jan. 17.
“We are obviously devastated for Kim,” said co-head coach Tom Farden. “We coaches are so proud of this team, though, and how they came out after losing Kim and fought their way through it. Our goal coming in was to hit 24 of 24 routines, and even with the late substitutions, we hit every routine. Our other goal was to come out of the gates strong on the first event, which we did for the second straight week.”Utah not only came out fast—scoring a 49.375 on bars—but finished the meet in equally impressive fashion by posting the same score on beam.
MyKayla Skinner won four individual titles to lead the Utes and stayed unbeaten on the season in the all-around (39.575), vault (9.875) and floor (9.925), while also winning her third beam title (9.925). Picking up her first win of 2017 was Tiffani Lewis, who tied Skinner on vault. Baely Rowe won bars with a 9.925 and placed second to Skinner in the all-around with a 39.500.
Utah’s first two lineups of the day were impacted by the loss of Tessen, who had season highs of 9.90 and 9.85 on vault and bars, respectively. With the revised lineup, MaKenna Merrell moved to the leadoff position on bars, and as Utah’s first performer of the day, scored a 9.825. Competing on bars for the first time of her Ute career in place of Tessen was freshman Missy Reinstadtler, who responded to the call with a 9.85 routine. Skinner and Kari Lee followed with their own 9.85 bar scores. Finishing the event with a flourish were Lewis (9.90) and Rowe (9.925).
Off Utah went to vault where the last-minute substitution was sophomore Erika Muhaw. She scored a 9.75 in her first score to count this season and the second routine of her career. Utah’s 49.125 on vault was its lowest score of the night thanks to some hops on landings, something Farden said the team will continue to work to improve.
Landings and almost everything else were clean in the second half of the meet, where the Utes scored a 49.275 on floor and then finishing with a dynamite 49.375 on the beam. Rowe (9.90) and Skinner (9.925) wrapped up the floor set strong to give Utah a 0.675 cushion (147.775-147.100) entering the final rotation.
Beam went like clockwork, with Kari Lee’s 9.90 from the fifth position clinching the victory even before Rowe (9.90) finished a set that was also highlighted by a dazzling 9.925 routine from Skinner.
The Utes improved to 6-0 on the season and 1-0 in the Pac-12. They’ll host another unbeaten team in California next Saturday. The matinee meet will start at 1:30 p.m.
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