O’Keefe’s all-around title lifts Utah into NCAA final
FORT WORTH, Texas — Maile O’Keefe scored a perfect 10 on the beam to secure the all-around title and help Utah advance to the NCAA championship final for the third year in a row.
Utah surged into the lead (198.2250) with a lights-out performance on the beam in the second semifinal on Thursday night. Defending champion Oklahoma (198.1625) also advanced to the national championship for the 10th straight season. Utah and Oklahoma were the only programs with plus-198 scores on the day.
O’Keefe is the first Red Rock to win the all-around title since 1999. Olivia Trautman became Oklahoma’s seventh athlete in program history to earn an individual title by winning the vault. Olympic medalist Jordan Chiles took two crowns for UCLA, with the first perfect 10 of the semifinals on the bars and 9.9875 on the floor.
Utah’s other star, Olympic silver medalist Grace McCallum, competed for the first time since Feb. 11 due to a knee injury and scored a 9.95 on the uneven bars in an emotional return. She put Utah in the final with a good showing on the beam following O’Keefe’s 10.
Oklahoma moved into first entering the fourth rotation after an impressive 49.6625 on floor, and Utah set a season high on the bars to push into second place. Trautman stuck the landing on the vault for a score of 9.950 to lock Oklahoma’s spot in Saturday’s final.
Earlier in the day, Florida advanced to the championship round for the third straight year after getting a lift from the return of star Trinity Thomas.
Florida’s Southeastern Conference counterpart LSU posted the top score of the first session at 197.4750. The Gators finished ahead of California and Denver for a chance at their first national title since winning three straight from 2013 to ’15. LSU looks for its first title in program history.
Thomas, the reigning NCAA all-around champion, competed for the first time since suffering a lower leg injury in her floor routine in the regional on March 31. Thomas drilled a landing on the uneven bars with a near-perfect score of 9.95 to help the Gators take the lead after the first rotation. She also competed in the vault.
LSU has also been dealing with injuries. Haleigh Bryant, the leader in the all-around after the first semifinal, has been managing a shoulder injury and hasn’t practiced much the past few weeks.
“I guess practice is overrated,” LSU coach Jay Clark joked in a television interview. “I was a little concerned they hadn’t had any reps whatsoever, just trying to save their bodies, and they came in and did a great job.”
Bryant, who earlier this year became the first in LSU history with three 10s in the same meet, closed out the floor routine with a 9.950. Aleah Finnegan, who received 10s in four straight weeks in February, tied the highest score on floor at nationals in LSU history with a 9.9625.
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