Bleeding Red: Perfection on The Hill for Merrell-Giles

No one does it with as much style
As Red Rock MaKenna Merrell-Giles
Last Saturday she put on a show
Should’ve had two perfect ten-point-ohs

COMMENTARY – Sir Elton John once sang “Saturday night’s alright for fighting.” Well, last weekend the Red Rocks proved that on Saturday afternoon the crowd swoons to the tune (at least in the floor exercise).

utesOn a perfect spring day, in front of a capacity crowd, with nearly flawless performances by the gymnasts, Utah posted its highest score of the season with a 197.70. In order to post that big of a score, you have to get big performances from all of the gymnasts. However, no one came up bigger than MaKenna Merrell-Giles.

Don’t be fooled by her diminutive 5-foot-4 frame. This lady is a giant when she steps into the stoplight. She nearly bookended the meet with perfect 10.0s. The crowd immediately rose to its feet after her perfect vault (well before the 10.0 score was shown). She received a rousing standing ovation after her floor exercise, with the crowd urging the judges for another perfect score. But alas, where one judge saw perfection, the other judge saw a tiny flaw and she had to settle for a 9.975.

Merrell-Giles won her third all-around title this season, sharing the honor with MyKayla Skinner. Kari Lee was not far behind as the runner-up in her first all-around performance of the season.

MaKenna Merrell-Giles | Photo courtesy Utah Athletics

Let’s not forget that Skinner had an incredible meet herself. She had big scores on all four events, wining the beam in the process. And her scores should have been even bigger. One of the beam judges was wildly erratic in his scoring in general, with Skinner being but one of his victims. Skinner’s floor exercise may have potentially warranted a perfect score, but the judges just couldn’t bring themselves to give Skinner scores higher than those just awarded to Merrell-Giles.

Saturday’s performance vaulted these incredible Red Rocks into the No. 2 spot nationally. Utah also retained its rankings in the individual events, standing pat at No. 1 on floor, No. 2 on vault, No. 3 on bars, and No. 9 on beam.

The Red Rocks are the only team in the nation to boast two Top-5 gymnasts in the all-around, with Skinner checking in at No. 3 and Merrell-Giles hot on her heels at No. 5.

What is really scary is that the Red Rocks haven’t even hit their peak yet. “The best thing is that, as good as we were today, we can be even better,” explained Merrell-Giles after the meet. “When we hit all 24 routines the way we are capable, it is going to be really amazing. Skinner agreed. “This year has a different feel. We are healthy, strong and competing with confidence. And we all really want to win.”

With a MyK-MaK dual-attack, Utah is in the zone, these Red Rocks will bring the title home!

Next up is another home meet against Arizona State on Friday, February 9, 2018.

The Red Rocks were not the only Utah team to claim victory over the weekend. The women’s swimming team won its fourth-consecutive dual meet with a 143-93 victory over Oregon State last Saturday. On Sunday, the women’s tennis team defeated Minnesota to claim the Courtside Classic title. Sunday also saw the Lady Utes beat Colorado on the hardwood court. If only the men’s basketball team could have replicated that feat.

Colorado guard McKinley Wright IV, right, drives past Utah guard Justin Bibbins, center, and forward David Collette in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

With a single game to play last week, the Runnin’ Utes came up short on the road against the Buffaloes. It was a disappointing performance all around.

Utah posted its lowest score of the season—a mere 55 points, while shooting 35.1% from the floor, 30.4% from distance, and 66.7% from the charity stripe. Not a single player scored in double-digits. Once again the Runnin’ Utes were outrebounded by their opponent.

Colorado took its first lead of the game with just over four minutes to pay in the first half. The Buffaloes would never relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game, leading by as many as 21 late in the game.

The loss cemented Utah’s spot squarely in the mid-tier of Pac-12 teams. The top-tier features Arizona (9-2 and the Pac-12’s lone ranked team at No. 12), followed by USC (8-3), Washington (7-3), UCLA (7-4), and Stanford (7-4). The middle-tier has three teams at 5-6 (Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah) with Oregon sitting at 5-5. The bottom-tier consists of Oregon State (3-7), California (2-9) and Washington State (1-9).

If conference parity is the goal, then Larry Scott is an absolute genius.

The next two weeks present an opportunity for Utah to try and climb into the top-tier, with two very winnable games against bottom-tier schools (California and Washington State) and two stepping stone games against top-tier schools (Stanford and Washington).

Next up is a home stand on The Hill with the Cardinal visiting on Thursday, and the Golden Bears coming to town on Saturday.

Here’s hoping the Red Rocks will keep on rolling toward a title and the Runnin’ Utes can find some inspiration to play up to their full potential as well.

Bleeding Red is a sports column written by Dwayne Vance. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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Posted in Columnists, Opinion / Columns / Shows, Sports, Top Sports Stories, UtahTagged , , , , ,

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