After winning two individual national titles, O’Keefe says she’s more focused on her team’s success this season
It’s been about eight months since Utah gymnast Maile O’Keefe celebrated one of the most successful attempts in the NCAA Championship by winning the national title on uneven floors and crossbars.
She called that April day a “surreal and wonderful moment,” a moment she is still processing on some level. Those national titles were the culmination of an incredible year in which she won 31 event titles, hit 54 out of 54 matches, peaking her career in every event and in all activities, and won the Utah team MVP award, in addition to earning the Pac -12 and All-American title.
So how does she top that year in 2022? Will she be able to handle the expectations that she will repeat such an attempt at dominance?
O’Keefe replied with a smile and the certainty of someone who truly believes they are in control of their own destiny.
Team: Utah, BYU, SUU, Utah St
“I don’t put pressure on myself,” she said. “Everybody has those days where you mess up and your score might not count and you have to rely on the team. It’s not my success, it’s the team’s success.”
However, as fans saw last year, O’Keefe’s success had a huge impact on the team’s success. Certainly given the depth of this year, the fate of the team does not rest on O’Keefe’s shoulders alone, but her performance will be a big deciding factor.
With all the depth that Utes have, coach Tom Farden envisions O’Keefe in most squads, most of the time.
“She was a completely pure person, no question,” Farden said. “Pressure can always be a blessing or a curse, but I believe she is someone who thrives on competition. The challenge is to maintain it throughout her career, can she do that? ”
O’Keefe is preparing to enter her senior year with the determination of someone who believes she has yet to peak as an athlete. She worked on upgrading the floor and worked hard on her vault.
“I really feel like things are going really well,” she said. “I’m trying to make this year my own and not compare with any past years or try to live up to something and just focus on getting together.”
Part of O’Keefe’s motivation is her experience. She is no longer the talented but slightly naive freshman from Las Vegas who started her career with 30 out of 30 habits.
After his sophomore year, O’Keefe is a respected veteran of a talented team. In many ways, her rise reflects that in the group as she talks about the experience she’s had and her hopes for the future.
“I went through a lot of changes as a freshman,” she said. “You get used to a different system and it takes a while to settle into where I belong.”
Looks like she’s found her place okay, right there among the best of Utah.
Jr., 5-2, Las Vegas
Highlights of 2021
• NCAA floor champion and uneven bars
• Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year
• Four-time Pac-12 champion (around, uneven bar, balance beam, floor)
• Finished the season 1st on the balance sheet
• Hit 54 out of 54 habits
https://www.sltrib.com/sports/utah-utes/2022/01/06/utah-gymnast-maile-okeefe/ Utah gymnast Maile O’Keefe leads the Red Rocks to the national championship