The Utah Red Rocks (14-2-1) failed to defend their back-to-back Pac-12 Championships, tying for second at the Pac-12 Championship in Seattle, Wash. The Red Rocks were initially third due to a scoring input error. They however finished behind UCLA (197.250) and tied with Oregon State (196.925). With the second place finish, Utah remains the only team to finish in the top three at every Pac-12 Championship since joining the conference in 2012. Prior to this meet, Utah had scored 197.000 or great in seven straight meets.
The Red Rocks got off to a disastrous start on the balance beam, with sophomore Samantha Partyka suffering the first fall of her career. Senior Kailah Delaney scored a 9.850 after Partyka's fall, but freshman MaKenna Merrell, the replacement for the injured Maddy Stover, also suffered a fall. Only three gymnasts into the meet, things were looking dire for the Red Rocks. Baely Rowe (9.95) and Breanna Hughes (9.90) posted career highs on the event. The falls hurt the Red Rocks though. After the first rotation, Utah's 48.775 placed them a distant fourth behind Oregon State (49.150), UCLA (49.125) and California (49.000).
The night outside of the first three gymnasts on beam went well overall for the Red Rocks.Breanna Hughes won the all-around (39.550) and vault (9.975), Baely Rowe tied for first on beam (9.95) and second to Hughes in the all-around (39.500), and Tiffani Lewis tied for first on floor (9.925). Only bars, which is Utah's strongest event, did a Utah gymnast not at least tie for first.
The Pac-12 also announced that the conference coaches had voted senior Kassandra Lopez the Pac-12 Specialist of the Year and Sabrina Schwab the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. On Friday, Hughes was named the Pac-12 Women's Gymnastics Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
"This team is full of fighters," said co-head coach Tom Farden. "It was a long way to climb out of that first rotation."
While Utah was down, you could tell they were far from out of it. They came out firing on floor. The first three performers on floor scored career highs on floor. Rowe and Merrell both scored a 9.90 and Lewis got her first career win with a 9.925. A controversial step out of bounds cost Partyka a tenth of a point, giving her a 9.80 (it looked to me like she did not step out but it was close). Schwab and Hughes finished off the event with 9.875 routines. The 49.475 set floor set showed Utah still had signs of life. After two rotations, Utah moved all the way up to a three-way tie for second place. UCLA (98.425) had the lead with Utah, California and Oregon State all tied at 98.250.
Vault was highlighted by a career high 9.975 (which included scores of 10.0 from two of the four judges) from Hughes and a 9.90 from Partyka. The strong scores lifted Utah to a season high 49.400 on the vault. After three events, UCLA continued to lead (148.000), followed by Utah(147.650), Cal (147.625), and Oregon State (147.400).
Utah's bar set of 49.275 was lower than their last few and was not enough to lift Utah over UCLA. The Pac-12 Championship came down to the final gymnast for each squad. UCLA's Angi Sipra suffered a fall as the second to last gymnast on floor (UCLA's final event), which opened the door for the other three teams. Sadiqua Bynum cooly hit a 9.900 to give the Bruins the win. There was plenty of confusion after the meet. A scoring input error gave Schwab a 9.825 on bars when she actually scored a 9.850. The error gave the Beavers sole possession of second-place until the error was resolved.
The teams from the afternoon session: Stanford (196.125), Arizona (195.525), Washington (195.300), and Arizona State (191.725) were not close to challenging any of the teams from the evening session.
"Obviously we're disappointed that we didn't win the meet because our hope and expectation is to win it every year," said Farden. "We shot ourselves in the foot on the balance beam, but I am really proud at how we bounced back."
While the loss is disappointing, Utah has a chance to bounce back when they host the NCAA Salt Lake City Regional on Saturday, Apr. 2 at 6 p.m. after a week off. Utah will learn the other five teams in the Regional on Monday, Mar. 21 at 2 p.m. on a live selection show on NCAA. com, which you can watch here.