WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Utah and UCLA have been the dominant gymnastics programs for years, and the two powerhouses went down to the final routines to decide the Pac-12 championship at the Maverik Center Saturday night.
A crowd of 8,621 watched the Bruins pull away on the final event to win the conference title in a thriller over Utah, 198.400-198.025. They were the two highest scores in the nation this week.
Utah closed to within 0.05 of the Bruins entering the last event, but UCLA was finishing on floor, where it is the top ranked team in the nation. The Bruins exploded for a 49.775 to surpass Utah’s 48.450 on vault for the final margin of victory.
Oregon State finished third with a 196.600, followed by California (196.575), Arizona State (196.400), Washington (196.175), Stanford (195.925) and Arizona (193.900).
“It was an incredible night of NCAA gymnastics,” said Utah co-head coach Tom Farden, whose team topped 198 for the first time this season. “The atmosphere was electric from the start and this was a great venue for this competition. After balance beam, I told our team to fight to the finish and they did. UCLA is the best gymnastics team in the country. They’re a bit of a freight train right now and I don’t think they have brakes, but this little team did not back down. I am so proud,” said Farden.
Utah led just once before UCLA took the lead for good on the second rotation. The Utes didn’t let the defending NCAA champions coast to the title, though. MyKayla Skinner’s 10.0 on floor in the third rotation capped a 49.700 set—Utah’s best of the year—and brought the Utes within a half a tenth of UCLA.
“It was so exciting to get a 10.0 and have the crowd give me a standing ovation,” said an emotional Skinner, who has been denied a 10.0 on her signature event since her freshman year.
Her 10.0 guaranteed her a share of a third-straight Pac-12 floor title, which was matched one rotation later by UCLA’s Kyla Ross and Katelyn Ohashi. The Ute junior, who also tied for first on vault with a 9.95, now has seven Pac-12 individual titles: three on floor, two on vault and two all-around. Ross kept Skinner from winning her third Pac-12 all-around title, edging the Ute star 39.800-39.750.
Skinner led a trio of Utes in the top four of the all-around standings. In third was MaKenna Merrell-Giles (39.600) and Kari Lee tied for fourth (39.525).
The Utes got off to a phenomenal start to the meet, posting their best bar score of the season (a 49.575), while recording four season or career highs. Lee got it started with a season high 9.85, followed by back-to-back career highs from Hunter Dula (9.95) and Kim Tessen (9.925). Merrell-Giles and Missy Reinstadtler then scored consecutive 9.90s and Skinner tied her season high with a 9.95. After one rotation, Utah’s 49.575 led the pack ahead of UCLA (49.425), Cal (49.175) and Oregon State (48.600).
As was the case on bars, Lee led off on beam and scored a 9.85. Alexia Burch added a 9.80 and Sydney Soloski tied her season beam high with a 9.825. The back half of the lineup polished off the 49.300 set with a 9.90 from Adrienne Randall, 9.875 from Merrell-Giles and 9.85 from Skinner
A huge bar set by UCLA on the next rotation propelled the Bruins past Utah after two events, 99.075-98.875. California was next with a 98.200 ahead of OSU trailing (98.025).
The Bruins stayed on fire on beam, but the Utes burned even hotter on floor. Skinner’s first 10.0 since her freshman season ignited the predominantly Utah crowd the Maverik Center, as did 9.95s from Macey Roberts and Merrell-Giles and a 9.925 from Lee.
The Utes couldn’t quite keep pace at the end, although Skinner tied for first with her 9.95 vault and Kari Lee tied for third with a 9.90.
The Utes will learn their NCAA regional destination on Monday at 3 p.m. The selection show will be broadcast online on NCAA.com. For the first time, regionals will be a three-day event. Utah, as the nation’s sixth-ranked team, will receive a first-round bye and will begin competition on Friday, Apr. 5.