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Utah gymnastics comes in 2nd at Pac-12 Championships

Deena Lofgren

The Red Rocks went into the Pac-12 Championships as the 2-seed, behind 1-seed UCLA, and that’s how the meet ended up — with UCLA winning it and Utah coming in second. After an explosive meet against Georgia a week ago, the Red Rocks were flying high and were hoping to take that momentum into the post season, but things didn’t really materialize that way, at least not until the final rotation. The final team standings were UCLA 197.500, Utah 197.350, California 196.950, Washington 196.750, Oregon State 196.575, Arizona State 196.425, Stanford 196.350 and Arizona 195.825.

Utah had a fourth Pac-12 title in its sights, and their second consecutive when UCLA ran into trouble on bars on the second event, but the Utes’ brief lead disintegrated after a surprisingly subpar floor performance in round three. After two rounds, the Utes were in the lead, and I was thinking another Pac-12 title was imminent, with their best two events coming up, floor and vault, but the performance on the floor doomed the Utes. Utah made a comeback on the vault, the best performance of the year there. Tiffani Lewis got things going on vault with a 9.90, followed by a 9.90 by Kim Tessen, a 9.95 from Merrell-Giles and a 9.90 by Skinner. Merrell-Giles’ victory was her first Pac-12 title.

MyKayla Skinner was the rock star that she always is by tying for first in the all-around with UCLA’s Kyla Ross with a 39.675 and tying for first on floor with UCLA’s Katelyn Ohashi with a 9.95. For some reason, Skinner goes bigger and cleaner than almost anybody else around the country, and she gets less 10s than almost anybody else. She’s been the best gymnast in the Pac-12 for the past couple of seasons, and arguably the country, but she doesn’t get the respect she deserves. The judging on the night appeared to be a bit disjointed at times, at least to my eye. Utah was landing some great routines, but were contantly a little below UCLA, who was landing virtually the same things. It appeared to be an uphill battle for Utah in judging, and combine that with the mistakes they had, including Tessen falling on bars from the No. 5 position and Alexia Burch falling from the No. 3 position on beam, it took all they had to hold onto second from a scrappy Cal team that beat Utah a couple weeks ago in Berkeley.

Up next for the Utes are the Pac-12 Regionals in Salt Lake City at the Huntsman Center on April 7.