Red Rocks Overcome Adversity On The Road In Metroplex Challenge Meet

Feb 11, 2023, 6:01 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – The Red Rocks overcame adversity on the road in Metroplex Challenge against Georgia, Illinois, and Illinois State after former Olympian and all-around star Grace McCallum suffers vault injury.

Utah regrouped after a shaky start on vault, partially due to McCallum’s accident, scoring a season-high on bars, remaining steady on beam, and building momentum to finish on floor with a final score of 197.600 that will be a great addition to their NQS. 

Illinois came in second with a 196.300, followed by Georgia with a 196.100 and Illinois State with a 195.850. Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, and Stanford will be competing later in the evening to round out the Metroplex Challenge meet.

The Highlights

While vault could not have gone any worse with McCallum’s injury (future status yet to be determined per head coach Tom Farden), bars was a dream as the Red Rocks reset and rocked the house with a team score of 49.550. It’s the highest bars score of the season for the Utes and saw super-senior Cristal Isa pull down a career-high 9.975 on the event.

Beam also proved to be fruitful after an unusually shaky start for Amelie Morgan with a 9.500.

From there, the Utes scored a 9.8 or higher with the crescendo coming from Maile O’Keefe in the anchor spot posting her second perfect 10 in two weeks on the event. O’Keefe is now tied with Theresa Kulikowski for the program record on beam for perfect 10s at six.

It is also worth noting freshman gymnast Makenna Smith’s valiant efforts for her team in the all-around after McCallum’s unexpected exit from the meet.

Smith has been a sensation since debuting at the Red Rocks’ preview in December and once again far-exceed expectations for a freshman being thrust into a difficult situation. Smith ended her night a 9.8 on vault, season-high 9.9 on bars, 9.8 on her debut to beam, and 9.9 on floor for a 39.400 all-around score.

22 Forever

It was reported earlier in the week by KSL Sports that Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe’s families were going to be in attendance for the Red Rocks’ meet this Saturday.

Jordan and Lowe tragically passed away nine months in between each other nearly two years ago and were friends of gymnasts Maile O’Keefe and Jaedyn Rucker. Both gymnasts have dedicated routines to the players that their families have witnessed live for the first time over the past two weeks.

Maybe one of the craziest aspects of this story is that Donna Sterns (Aaron Lowe’s mother) was in attendance a week ago at the Huntsman Center to witness O’Keefe earn her first perfect 10 of the season on beam where she throws up a “22” in honor of Lowe and Jordan. O’Keefe scored a second perfect 10 this week with Donna once again in attendance along with Jordan’s aunt, Takka.

“It’s really cool that Donna and Ty Jordan’s aunt came out to support us,” O’Keefe said after the meet. “I didn’t know A-Lowe’s mom was there last weekend but she was also here with Ty Jordan’s aunt this week. It’s really amazing to keep their memory going through my routines and hopefully I’m making them proud.”

Red Rocks head coach Tom Farden noted how special it is the deep bonds that are formed throughout the Utah Athletics department. A lot of teams and ADs preach family, but few have the kind of proof the Utes can provide that it really means something.

“It means the world to me,” Farden said. “It means Utah Athletics is an entire family and that’s the culture that we breed. I’m friendly with all of the other head coaches here and take an invested interest in how they are doing and love seeing the other sports thriving at a high, high level. The kids, they all eat at the athlete’s cafeteria, so they all become a family. to see our athletes, memorialize and have those two in their hearts forever and displayed in their routines for their families to see that, it’s touching. It tells me that these kids value the friendships that they build in college for a lifetime.”


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Red Rocks Overcome Adversity On The Road In Metroplex Challenge Meet