Clutch final runs on the floor push Southern Utah past BYU in battle of top-25 programs

·3 min read
Hannah Nipp's 9.925 on the floor helped pace the Flippin' Birds to a narrow win over in-state rival BYU.
Hannah Nipp's 9.925 on the floor helped pace the Flippin' Birds to a narrow win over in-state rival BYU.

Leading by just .050 after three rotations and still with the floor routine remaining, the Southern Utah University gymnastics team got a pair of 9.925s from Hannah Nipp and Karley McClain and a 9.725 from freshman Ellie Cacciola in the final floor routine to edge #21 BYU 196.450-196.400 in front of an energetic home crowd in Cedar City.

The #18 ranked Flippin' Birds saved their best for last, closing with a team score of 49.250 on the floor.

The 9.925 set a season high for both Nipp and McClain, who came into Friday night’s meet with averages of 9.725 and 9.700, respectively.

“I was really proud of Hannah and Karley because the last couple of meets they’ve been trying to figure out their floor routine and get it together, and tonight they did. They looked great,” said head coach Scotty Bauman.

Ellie Cacciola put the final stamp for Southern Utah with a 9.725 on the floor, showing great confidence in the last run.

Two weeks ago, Southern Utah placed fourth out of four teams at the best of Utah event, falling to BYU 195.225-195.00.

Bauman said the slip-ups in the Best of Utah event gave his club added motivation in front of their home crowd at a packed America First Event Center.

“It’s BYU. All of our in-state rivals are incredible gymnastics programs,” Bauman said. “To be able to get out there and beat any of them is a huge plus for us. BYU is solid. They’re very, very good. They looked amazing tonight. I was really impressed with our girls and the way they came through in the end, particularly our freshman in that last slot, we needed her to do a good floor routine.”

Despite not placing in the balance beam — the event that cost them the Best of Utah — Bauman’s team looked much improved, with no falls and slip-ups. The Flippin' Birds were led by Rachel Smith, tallying a 9.825

“In the best of Utah, we just fell all over the place,” Bauman said. “It was hard to see Karley (McClain) who never falls have a tough meet. She really had a hard time… Staying on the beam, figuring out our lineups, figuring out our rotation. We’ll get Karley in there soon. It’s kind of a new routine for Rachel Smith as well. I’m impressed that they’re starting to find beam, now we just need to tighten up our landings a little bit.”

Southern Utah also got a lights-out performance on the uneven bars by Shylen Murakami, who ignited the crowd and her club with a 9.950.

“She is just so good on bars," Bauman said. "She practices like that every day. She does not mess around on bars and beam. Shylen is absolutely mesmerizing to watch. If you watch that routine again, she hits every handstand flawlessly. Her jaeger is four feet above the bar. It’s just so well done.”

Caitlin Kho led Southern Utah on the vault with a 9.875.

Sadie Miner-Van Tassel won the all-around for BYU with a score of 39.075.

Sean Ellertson is a sports reporter for the St. George Spectrum & Daily News. To continue to support his work, please subscribe to The Spectrum. Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanEllertson.

This article originally appeared on St. George Spectrum & Daily News: Clutch final runs on the floor push Southern Utah past BYU in battle of top-25 programs

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