SUU gymnastics showed flashes on tough California road trip

Southern Utah University gymnastics faced challenges during their two-meet road trip to California last week. They took third place in the Sacramento State Quad Meet on March 3 before San Jose State University got the better of them in a March 5 showdown. 

With only one win to their three losses, SUU landed at a 12-5 overall record. Their Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference record of 5-1 has been locked in since their final conference matchup against Boise State University. The Thunderbirds improved their team National Qualifying Score to 196.625 but were passed in the rankings and now stand at No. 22 of the 36 teams advancing to NCAA regionals.

Sacramento State Quad Meet

SUU’s Friday night score of 196.200 led to a third place finish above Sacramento State University’s score of 195.450. The San Jose State University Spartans took first by posting a score of 196.600, and UC Davis snatched second with 196.475. Racking up a total score of 38.825, fifth-year senior Karley McClain took second in the all-around to SJSU junior Lauren Macpherson.

Starting strong with their best event, the Thunderbirds’ impressive floor routines earned them a 49.250 and the lead. McClain posted the highest SUU individual score of the meet with a 9.925. Freshman Kayla Pardue shined in the vault, taking the event’s individual champion spot with a 9.900 to cap off the team’s 49.175 in the second rotation.

The transition to the bars pulled the momentum out of the Thunderbirds’ favor. Despite graduate student Shylen Murakami leading the event with a 9.900, SUU’s team score of 48.975 allowed the Spartans to pull ahead. 

To sneak back into the lead, the Thunderbirds would’ve needed outstanding marks on the beam, which had been their downfall the meet before. Sophomore Ellie Cacciola notched a 9.900, but a couple of tough stumbles dragged the team to a 48.800, sliding them into the third place spot.

San Jose State

On Sunday, SUU missed their first of two opportunities for revenge against the Spartans with a 195.250-196.175 road loss. Their execution on the beam came up short again to mark their lowest overall score of the season. SJSU’s Macpherson dominated for a second straight meet, once again edging McClain to second place in the all-around despite the Thunderbird superstar’s outstanding 39.200 score.

Even though the team performed well in their first two rotations, they fell behind the Spartans on the vault and bars. Murakami once again conquered the bars, leading the scoring with a 9.900. SUU managed to score higher than SJSU in the vault, but moving into the second half of the meet, the Spartans led 98.250-98.000.

Unsurprisingly, the Thunderbirds’ floor routines shined, with both McClain and fifth-year senior Rachel Smith pitching in scores of 9.900 to the team’s 49.325. However, in an unusual turn of events, their floor routine was topped by a 49.425 performance by the Spartans.

On the beam, Cacciola tied for first with her second straight 9.900. Three falls on the beam docked them down to a 47.925, sealing the meet’s final score of 195.250 as SUU’s lowest regular season score so far.

Next up

The Thunderbirds will aim to set themselves back on track in their final regular season meet on Friday, March 10. The SUU Tri-Meet presents a third opportunity to beat the Spartans, as well as a chance to face the University of Iowa. SUU will host the meet in the America First Event Center at 7 p.m. MST, and it can be viewed on ESPN+.

Story by: Kale Nelson

Photos by: SUU Athletics