Bleeding Red: Senior night was epic for U of U’s Red Rocks

The Red Rocks went into Senior Night
Pumped up and so ready to take flight
Move over old men on Mt. Rushmore
Here come Lewis, Muhaw, and Stover!

COMMENTARY – Talk about going out with a bang! Three gymnasts wrapped up their regular-season careers on The Hill last Friday night – Tiffani Lewis, Erika Muhaw, and Maddy Stover. They went out in style with a huge win over Georgia.

utesTiffani Lewis is a native of Las Vegas, Nevada. Her favorite event is the floor, “Because in gymnastics that’s really the only event where you can show off your personality and play with the audience a little bit.” She also “loves to

Tiffani Lewis

defy gravity.” She certainly played with the audience and defied gravity on Friday night. Her floor routine involves the crowd clapping along with her to the beat of the music. As she flashed the U to conclude her final regular season routine as a Ute, Lewis immediately covered her face and broke into emotional tears as the crowd roared with approval. She scored a career-high 9.975 (one judge gave her a 10.0 while the other one stopped at 9.95). Utah will dearly miss her in the leadoff spot in many events.

Erika Muhaw hails from the other side of the country in Montville, New Jersey. She is the entire package – beauty, talent, and brains. Muhaw is on track to earn her

Erika Muhaw

degree a year early, on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll, and already a two-time NACGC Scholar All-American (with a chance to do so a third time). The limited opportunities for this talented lady to step into the starting lineup is a testament to the crazy depth of this squad. Nevertheless, she has always been ready to step up when needed and she stepped up in a big way when the team needed her on vault at the 2017 NCAA Regionals. She will be more than ready to do so again this year if called upon.

Maddy Stover is from Fullerton, California. She is a natural leader and epitomizes the spirit of this squad. She always has a smile and an encouraging word. Her favorite event is the balance beam because she “loves the precision and artistry associated with the balance beam.” With a shoulder that

Madi Stover

just won’t cooperate with the rest of her body under the rigors of tumbling, combined with the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, Stover has become a specialist on the beam and a favorite of her fellow teammates. After her beam routine on Friday night, the crowd immediately rose to its feet and gave her a standing ovation in appreciation for all that she has done for this squad, the school, and the sport.

So, when the leadoff performer on floor sets the bar ridiculously high with a 9.975, what do you do? You follow-up with a perfect 10.0! Energized by the electricity in the arena thanks to Lewis’ magnificent routine, MaKenna Merell-Giles scored her second perfect score of the season. MyKayla Skinner then took the floor and nearly replicated the feat herself. The crowd was chanting “10” as soon the music ended, but only one judge agreed while the other one gave Skinner a 9.95 so she had settle for a mere 9.975. The team floor score of 49.775 was only a whisper away from the school record of 49.800.

The winning score of 198.150 was the Red Rocks’ high score of the season. Utah’s four all-arounders also finished first through fourth ahead of both of Georgia’s all-arounders. The squad appears to be peaking at the perfect time as they prepare for the Pac-12 Championship in Tucson, Arizona, this Saturday.

Two days before the Red Rocks stole the show (and the hearts of Utah fans), the men’s basketball team tried to extend its season with a home NIT game against UC-Davis.

The Aggies jumped out to an early lead and held on to it for the first three quarters. At times, the crowd grew restless wondering if they were going to experience another first-round defeat in an NIT home game. The Runnin’ Utes persevered, took the lead on the first possession of the fourth quarter, and never looked back, winning 69-59.

It is somewhat common to see a lot of upsets in the NIT as the favored team licks its wounds and wallows in misery over being relegated to the NIT while the underdog gets fired up and plays with a chip on its shoulder, wanting to prove that it can run with the big dogs.

In 2017, 9 of the 16 first-round games were upsets and not a single No. 1 seed survived the second round (with one of the top seeds losing the first game). All three Pac-12 teams lost their first game, with California going down as a 1-seed, Utah losing as a 3-seed, and Colorado losing as a 5-seed. Pac-12 teams fared better in the NCAA last year with all four teams winning at least one game and three of them making it to the Sweet 16.

This year the tables have turned. All three Pac-12 teams in the NCAA Tournament lost their first game, including UCLA and Arizona State losing their play-in game during the First Four and Arizona getting bounced by 13th-seeded Buffalo. However, in the NIT, all five Pac-12 teams won their first game, and Washington produced the sole upset in the first round (albeit a minor upset of a 5-seed over a 4-seed). Oregon has already lost in the second round, but four of the eight teams playing today in the NIT will be Pac-12 teams, with a legitimate shot to send two of those teams to the NIT Final Four in Madison Square Garden.

It’s nice to see teams playing like the NIT matters. If you don’t want to play in the NIT, then don’t. Instead, follow the lead of Georgia, which expressly stated it would not accept an invitation to the NIT before this year’s bracket was even announced. If you are going to accept an invitation, then play and play hard!

The Runnin’ Utes host LSU on The Hill tonight with a 7 p.m. tip.

Here’s hoping the Red Rocks can stay red hot at the conference championships this weekend and the Runnin’ Utes can continue to extend their season with a deep run in the NIT.

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

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

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

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