SALT LAKE CITY -- The University of Utah gymnastics team faced in-state opponent Brigham Young University Saturday at home in the Huntsman Center before a crowd of more than 15,000, and despite being a very different squad than the back-to-back Pac-12 champions of seasons past, Utah came out on top.
Utah, ranked No. 4 in the preseason according to a press release from the team, defeated BYU 196.175 to 193.850 in their opening match of the season, and the Red Rocks debuted some new talent in front of the team's 14th largest ever crowd as 15,023 spectators packed the building.
The Cougars' Makenzie Halliday was first in the all-around with a score of 38.875, according to a press release from BYU, but as a unit the Cougars could not top Utah.
"Our team was outstanding today, but you're not going to beat Utah coming up with some mistakes," BYU head coach Guard Young said in a press release. "You're going to have to be absolutely perfect, so we'll have to tighten that up if we're going to run with them."
After several star athletes like Corrie Lothrop and Georgia Dabritz graduated, Utah is fielding some new talent. Freshmen Sabrina Schwab and MaKenna Merrell made their debuts with the team, and upperclassmen Samantha Partyka, Kari Lee and Breanna Hughes are stepping into larger roles after spending the prior year apprenticed to senior all-arounders.
Tom Farden, in his first year as co-head coach with Utah, said while this is Utah's lowest score since 2013, that total isn't indicative of their performance.
"We coaches are very pleased with how our (gymnasts) competed and also how they didn't allow outside factors such as the tight scoring and longer-than-usual TV delays bother them," Farden stated in the press release. "They showed all the signs of being good competitors and we'll continue to improve with a few meets under our belts."
Utah Junior Barley Rowe scored the best score of the evening on uneven bars with a 9.925.
We did a really good job," Rowe said. "This was a great start to the season."
Brittni Wilde led the Cougars on the bars in their first rotation, scoring a 9.775. Overall, BYU's bar score was 48.275.
"15,000 people at a gymnastics meet all wearing red, it's quite the meet to start with," Young stated in the press release. "I love coming up here and I'm excited to be able to keep this going every year. Next year they're coming down to us. Hopefully we can rub off some of the magic they have up here."
Schwab earned the delight of the crowd in the final rotation when she scored a 9.90 on the floor exercise. The release states that while Schwab was initially slated to go exhibition on the event, she secured a Ute victory sweep in the four events as she joined Delaney on vault, Rowe on Bars and Stover on the beam.
"I've never experienced anything like this," Schwab stated. "I've never competed in front of this many people and to hear them roar like that was the greatest feeling ever."
BYU competes next on January 15, when they travel to take on Central Michigan at 7 p.m. EST. Click here for more on the scores from Cougar gymnasts at Friday's meet.
Utah travels to Cedar City next, where they will face Southern Utah on January 15 at 7 p.m. MT. Click here for more on the scores from Ute gymnasts at Friday's meet.