Maile O’Keefe edges Jordan Chiles for NCAA all-around gymnastics title
Maile O’Keefe finished with a perfect 10 on balance beam to overtake Olympic silver medalist Jordan Chiles for the NCAA all-around title and help Utah advance to Saturday’s NCAA team final for the third year in a row.
O’Keefe’s closing 10 on beam overtook Chiles, who had moved into the lead with a 10 on her last event, the uneven bars. O’Keefe totaled 39.7625 points to Chiles’ 39.1725.
O’Keefe, the 2016 and 2017 U.S. junior all-around champion, is the first Red Rock to win the NCAA all-around since 1999.
Chiles, who was bidding to become the first Olympian to win the NCAA all-around since Bridget Sloan in 2016, took two crowns for UCLA, with the first perfect 10 of the semifinals on bars and a 9.9875 on the floor.
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.
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.
Earlier in the day, Florida advanced to the championship round for the third straight year after getting a lift from the return of 2022 NCAA all-around champion 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 2013-15. LSU looks for its first title in program history.
Thomas, who at last year’s NCAAs beat Olympic all-around gold medalist Suni Lee, 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.
Lee, an Auburn sophomore, announced last week a premature end to her final college season, citing non-gymnastics related kidney issues.
Olympic floor exercise champion Jade Carey, an Oregon State sophomore, tied for second on beam behind O’Keefe on Thursday. She did not qualify for the all-around.
Chiles, Lee and Carey are expected to return to elite, Olympic-level gymnastics for Paris 2024 bids.
McCallum and Thomas have not announced publicly whether they will return to elite. O’Keefe is not expected to go back to elite.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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