SALT LAKE CITY — It was the first time this season that Utah gymnastics didn’t score in the 197s. Instead, the Red Rocks accelerated to a season-high 198.025. It wasn’t enough to win the Pac-12 Championship, but it shows promise as Utah enters the postseason.
UCLA defended its conference title scoring 198.40. Placing behind Utah was Oregon State (196.60), California (196.575), Arizona State (196.40), Washington (196.175), Stanford (195.925) and Arizona (193.90).
“It was an incredible night of NCAA gymnastics,” Utah co-head coach Tom Farden said. “UCLA is the best gymnastics team in the country. I haven’t seen a better team. They are a bit of a freight train right now and I don’t know if they have brakes.”
UCLA’s Kyla Ross won the all-around with a 39.80, scoring 10.0s on bars and floor and 9.90s on vault and beam. MyKayla Skinner (39.75) finished second while Merrell-Giles (39.60) finished third. Skinner won two event titles, earning her first 10.0 of the season on floor and scoring 9.95 on vault.
“That was well deserved,” Farden said of Skinner’s perfect score. “It has been a long time coming.”
“It was so exciting to get a 10.0 and have the crowd give me a standing ovation,” an emotional Skinner said.
Although they didn’t win, the Red Rocks were happy with how they performed.
“Getting a 198 is nothing to be upset about,” Merrell-Giles said. “I feel like we keep going up and up and we are really excited for regionals.”
“They didn’t back down. They embraced the challenge and fought to the bitter end,” Farden added.
The championship came down to the final rotation. Utah trailed UCLA by 0.05 after the Red Rocks posted a season-high 49.70 on floor in the third rotation. The Bruins took to floor next where they rank first in the nation. They exploded to 49.775 to go ahead of Utah’s 49.45 vault effort, edging the Red Rocks for the win.
UCLA led the entire competition except after the first rotation where the Red Rocks got off to a red-hot start on bars. Utah recorded four season or career highs as it posted its best bars score of the season (49.575).
Lee led off with a season-high 9.85, followed by Hunter Dula’s 9.90 and Kim Tessen’s 9.925 — both career bests. Merrell-Giles and Missy Reinstadtler earned 9.90s while Skinner anchored with a 9.95, tying her season best. After one rotation, Utah (49.575) was ahead of UCLA (49.425), Cal (49.175) and Oregon State (48.60).
Only Adrienne Randall broke the 9.90 plane for Utah on beam. Merrell-Giles was close with 9.875 as was Skinner and Lee with a pair of 9.85s. Meanwhile, UCLA’s effort on bars sent the Bruins ahead of the Red Rocks at the meet's midway point.
“Beam has been a bit of our Achilles’ heel this year, but I thought they did a nice job,” Farden said. “I told them to fight to the finish. We are in this thing and to fight.”
The standings after two were UCLA (99.075), Utah (98.875), California (98.20) and Oregon State (98.025).
UCLA continued to impress on beam, but Utah wasn’t going to let the rival easily win. The Red Rocks’ floor lineup in the third rotation was electric, consisting of Skinner’s perfect score, 9.95s from Macey Roberts and Merrell-Giles and a 9.925 from Lee.
At the end, the Bruins’ incredible floor lineup excelled over the Red Rocks’ vault lineup, despite Skinner’s 9.95 and Lee’s 9.90.
As the postseason gets rolling, Utah will learn its NCAA regional destination on Monday at 3 p.m. MDT on the NCAA selection show.