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Deena Lofgren

Skinner leads Utah gymnastics to win Pac-12 title

By Holli Joyce, Contributor | Posted - Mar. 19, 2017 at 7:12 a.m.

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STANFORD — When it mattered most, Utah gymnastics brought its best to the competition floor.

The fifth-ranked Red Rocks won the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championship, scoring a season-high 197.925, to win its third conference title in four years.

“We are so proud of these kids,” said Utah co-head coach Tom Farden.

Second-seed Utah held off Oregon State (197.40), Washington (197.10) and top-seed UCLA (197.10) in the evening session of the competition. Stanford (196.625) won the afternoon session, followed by California (196.30), Arizona (196.275) and Arizona State (195.60).

Freshman star MyKayla Skinner stayed undefeated against Pac-12 opponents winning the all-around (39.725) and floor with a perfect 10.0. She also tied with teammate Tiffani Lewis for the gold on vault (9.95). Skinner became the fifth Utah gymnast in six years to win the conference all-around title.

“We got off to an amazing start on the bars and just took off from there,” said Skinner. “Winning the Pac-12 Championship is a dream come true.”

Farden said the team was calm, aggressive and determined preparing for the meet in this week’s practice.

“We knew this would be a meet of inches, and we responded on every event with landings that were spot on,” he added.

The Utes started the night on bars where they posted a meet-high 49.425. Kari Lee and Missy Reinstadtler led the way with silver-medal 9.90s. Baely Rowe, who placed second in the all-around with a 39.575, Lewis and Skinner notched in 9.875s. Their efforts put Utah in a tie with Washington after the first rotation. Oregon State (49.350) and UCLA (49.150) were third and fourth, respectively.

Next for the Red Rocks was beam. In the leadoff position, Maddy Stover made a mistake which resulted in a low score the team would later drop. The rest of the lineup came in clutch with walk-through performances. MaKenna Merrell and Reinstadtler earned 9.85s. Skinner, Lee and Rowe put up three consecutive 9.90s to boost Utah's lead at the meet’s midway point.

Utah lead with 98.825, followed by Washington (98.70), Oregon State (98.675) and UCLA (98.10) as the teams moved to the third rotation.

The Red Rocks continued their 9.90 streak with Macey Roberts and Reinstadtler as the first and second competitors on floor. Lewis, last year’s conference floor champion, posted a career-tying 9.925. Utah faced another oops as Lee stepped out-of-bounds on her first tumbling pass. However, her teammates next in the lineup responded with excellence.

Rowe answered with a 9.90 and Skinner locked in her second 10.0 of the season on floor to secure 46.625, another meet-high score, on the event.

“The kids were confident, relaxed and built off each other’s routines. This is a group of fighters,” said Farden.

Washington (148.0), Oregon State (147.875) and UCLA (147.675) stayed in Utah’s shadow as the Utes led with 148.450 with one event left.

But the Red Rocks would zoom past its competition with ease on vault, posting another meet-high 49.475, to finish the night. Lewis performed her vault perfectly as she earned a 9.95 on her 9.95-valued vault. She tied with Skinner to become the vault co-champion. Skinner’s vault sealed the conference title before Shannon McNatt took the stage. She fell on her landing and suffered a tweaked knee, which was evaluated and isn’t serious.

After a stellar competition, Utah was left with one surprise. Skinner didn’t win either Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year or Freshman of the Year honors, despite winning multiple events on the night and setting records throughout the regular season. She won a remarkable seven gymnast of the week awards and tied for the most freshman of the week (6) honors in Pac-12 history.

“MyKayla Skinner is by far the best gymnast in the Pac-12, and I’m proud she proved it again by winning the all-around here,” Farden said of the nation’s second-ranked all-arounder.

Next for Utah is learning its NCAA Regional destination, which takes place Monday, March 20 on the NCAA selection show at 2 p.m MDT.


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