The result, a wafer-thin loss to one of the perennial powers in college gymnastics, fourth-ranked Utah, might raise eyebrows elsewhere, but not among Washington gymnasts or coaches.
“We shouldn’t be overlooked,” said third-year assistant coach Ralph Rosso, filling in while head coach Elise Ray-Statz is on maternity leave. “We have a complete lineup. As a coach, today you couldn’t ask for anything more.”
In a taut competition where every nuance in every performance mattered (UW held a minuscule 0.05-point lead after three rotations), Utah edged the 13th-ranked Huskies 197.675-197.600 Sunday in front of a noisy Alaska Airlines Arena crowd of 3,343.
Despite falling to the unbeaten Utes, a program with nine NCAA championships, the Huskies recorded the second-highest team score in UW history and the highest team beam score ever, 49.650, highlighted by a 10.0 by senior Evanni Roberson, who just two weeks ago posted UW’s first 10 on beam.
Only six teams in the latest NCAA Top 25 have a meet score of higher than 197.6 this season.
“This is how we train in the gym,” said Roberson, a graduate of Emerald Ridge High in Puyallup. “The way we train, we’re a top national contender. We train like we’re in the top five in the nation, and when it (the team’s training) comes down to the floor, we deserve to be in the top five.”
The loss was UW’s first in Pac-12 competition this season (4-1-1), after defeating two other high-ranking conference opponents, No. 3 UCLA (on the road) and No. 8 California. UW posted its previous season high, 197.225, against Cal.
Are such outcomes a nudge to the rest of college gymnastics that Washington is on the threshold of attaining national-power status in its fourth season under Ray-Statz?
“Absolutely,” Roberson said. “I think they already know, and it’s on us to show that them we deserve to be top in the nation”
“Our girls want it,” Russo said, “and they’re not going to stop until they get there. You couldn’t ask for anything more as a coach. For them to do what they did today, in a high-pressure situation against Utah, we’re really happy about that.”
With its win, Utah clinched its first Pac-12 title since 2017. Fifth-year Utah coach Tom Farden acknowledged Washington has the look of a program on the rise.
“They’re a much-improved team,” Farden said. “It was a huge fight today. They’re well coached, and they came to play today. I was really impressed by their landings. Their landings were incredible. I thought they did a really nice job of focusing in on that. They did a fantastic job today.”
Roberson won the all-around with a score of 39.575, her seventh individual title in eight competitions this season.
Roberson’s beam routine features an assortment of switch leaps and switch jumps followed by a full turn and demanding series, a standing layout-layout.
“It’s pretty difficult,” she said. “It’s the part I get most nervous for, but it’s also the part I work the hardest on in the gym, so I can make sure it comes easy down here.”
Utah gymnasts posted the top scores on the other three events. Junior Geneva Thompson, a graduate of Puyallup High, had UW’s highest score on vault (9.875). Three Huskies, Thompson, Madison Copiak and Maya Washington, all scored 9.9 on bars, and on floor Washington and Kristyn Hoffa tied for third (9.925). Missy Reinstadtler won floor with a 9.975, the second-highest score of the meet.
Five Huskies scored 9.9 or better on beam, including sophomore Hannah Vandenkolk. Keep an eye on UW, she advised.
“I don’t think we get the credit we deserve,” she said. “We’re a 197.5-plus team, and we showed everyone that tonight.”