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Red Rocks repeat as Pac-12 champions as Grace McCallum scores 10.0 on bars


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Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes

WEST VALLEY CITY — The momentum shift was subtle. But once Abby Paulson stuck her landing on beam, everyone in the Maverik Center knew a Pac-12 championship was within reach.

And by the time Cristal Isa and Maile O'Keefe scored back-to-back 9.950 scores on the event as the final two gymnasts, it was all but certain. The Red Rocks still had floor to perform, but the beam team gave the No. 1 seed in the conference championship meet a sizable 0.275 lead going into the final rotation.

The Red Rocks didn't need perfection on floor to win.

As senior Sydney Soloski prepared to compete in her final Pac-12 Championship meet in the anchor position, with the pro-Utah crowd in attendance ready to send a team favorite out with a standing ovation, the Red Rocks had already secured a back-to-back championship. Soloski's 9.925, in arguably one of her best performances of the season, pushed the team over the 198 barrier for the third time this season.

Once Utah's 198.000 score flashed on the video screen, the crowd erupted in cheers as the finality of the night sunk in: back-to-back Pac-12 champions.

"It's so cool," Soloski said of the support from the fans. "I think it's why every Utah gymnast comes here is because you feel such a love from people that don't know you in a crowd. I think every time before I go for my floor routine, it's my favorite part of the night — kind of no matter what happens just feeling so much support from everyone is what being a Utah gymnast is all about."

And though each conference title has its own importance, Soloski said Saturday's was the most special of her career.

"It means a lot. I mean, winning isn't everything, but it does kind of help to think about all the hard work that went into it; it does pay off in the end," the Canadian gymnast said. "I'm extremely proud of this team. I mean, these girls have been — they're resilient, they've been through a lot. We faced adversity; they're tough, they're fun.

"I love each and every one of them. So as a grandma, I'm just so proud of everybody, and I'm very glad I came back because this was a really special night."

The Red Rocks, who performed in the second session of the conference championship meet against Arizona State, California and Oregon State in the evening slate, rose to the top among a talented pool of teams that finished as co-champions of the regular season.

But in the end, the Red Rocks came out on top. California (197.425) finished the meet as the conference runner-up and was followed by Oregon State (197.250), UCLA (196.9590), Arizona State (196.675), Washington (196.400), Arizona (196.362) and Stanford (196.000) in the final standings.

Freshman Grace McCallum, who finished just behind Olympian Jade Carey (39.725) in the all-around competition, scored the only perfect 10.0 of the meet. As McCallum stuck her landing on a flawless bars routine, the crowd knew it was a special one and gave her a standing ovation. As the four 10.0 scores were revealed by the judges, the Maverik Center erupted.

McCallum's perfect score was the first for the Red Rocks in the Pac-12 Championship meet since former Utes gymnast MyKayla Skinner scored a 10.0 in 2019. With her 10.0, McCallum won the bars title and shared a floor title with former Team USA teammate Jade Carey — both scored a 9.950.

"That was so fun to share the floor title with Grace," Carey said. "It just felt like we were back out there together again, and I'm so proud of her."

McCallum added: "I absolutely love competing with her. It's always fun to see her just thrive and do so well in college. I'm so proud of her."

Carey finished the night with a 9.90 on vault, 9.925 on bars, 9.950 on beam and a 9.950 on floor in what she called her "most fun" meet she's "ever been a part of in my entire life."

"It was so much fun," Carey said. "We started off really great on beam, and I was just really proud of all the high scores and all the hits that we had thrown out, and we kept the momentum going the entire time. And we really just wanted to go up there and do our best and have a lot of fun."

The Red Rocks opened up the night with a slow start and finished the first rotation in third after a shaky team vault performance. Maile O'Keefe, who competed in the all-around competition Saturday, led the meet off with a 9.80 score before Cammy Hall's hands slid a bit on the table and was forced to sit on her landing when she didn't get as much air as needed.

Three of the remaining four gymnasts struggled to get close to the 9.90 mark, with senior Alexia Burch separating herself from the pack by landing a 9.925 for a team-high score — it was also good enough to win the vault title.

Oregon State had a strong beam performance to open the meet with a 49.450 team score to take the early lead and was followed by California's 49.425 score on bars. All Utah could do was put the vault out of their mind and finish strong on the final three events.

"We just kind of threw that in the back of the rearview mirror and then just put our blinders on and went forward from there, and you could see that they just picked up steam from there," Utah head coach Tom Farden said.

Farden said in his eyes it was Amelie Morgan in the leadoff position on bars that changed the course of the night for the Red Rocks. The British Olympian opened up the second rotation with a 9.90 score and her teammates got the message. McCallum followed and got her perfect score, and the rest was history as the Red Rocks chipped away at the lead.

By the time Isa, in the anchor position on bars, finished with a 9.925 score, the Red Rocks knew a victory was in sight. The bars performance was good enough to push the Red Rocks into a narrow 98.825-98.000 lead over California and Oregon State, who were tied, and the team never looked back.

The Red Rocks secured their third 198 score of the season and their highest road/neutral score of the season. In a year where the team has dropped three meets, the high mark in postseason play showed the team is peaking at the right time.

"I think scoring 198 in postseason, especially in a meet where you're not just up against one opponent but another seven, and it's such an indicative meet going into regionals and nationals where it's kind of sudden death," Soloski said. "So I think knowing that you can score a 198 going into postseason is just a confidence booster.

"I think we all know what we're capable of, but it always helps when you see that score pop up to know like, no, we're really good and we're in this, and we're gonna keep fighting until the end because I think this is honestly the start of this team."

Farden said it's where his team needs to be as they enter regionals as the No. 4 team in the country.

"If I could be honest, there's a lot of good gymnastics teams; they're going to put up those scores," Farden said. "And so for us to be able to run in that circle, I think we have to prove or show that we can we can drop those scores, too. Yeah, it's validation, but I also think it's necessary."

Team scores

2nd Session

Utah: 198.000

  • Vault: 49.275
  • Bars: 49.550
  • Beam: 49.650
  • Floor: 49.525

Arizona State: 196.675

  • Vault: 49.250
  • Bars: 49.225
  • Beam: 49.225
  • Floor: 48.975

California: 197.425

  • Vault: 49.225
  • Bars: 49.425
  • Beam: 49.375
  • Floor: 49.400

Oregon State: 197.250

  • Vault: 49.275
  • Bars: 49.175
  • Beam: 49.450
  • Floor: 49.350

1st Session

Arizona: 196.362

  • Vault: 48.900
  • Bars: 49.200
  • Beam: 49.225
  • Floor: 49.037

Stanford: 196.000

  • Vault: 49.150
  • Bars: 49.025
  • Beam: 48.575
  • Floor: 49.250

UCLA: 196.950

  • Vault: 49.025
  • Bars: 49.125
  • Beam: 49.375
  • Floor: 49.425

Washington: 196.400

  • Vault: 49.150
  • Bars: 48.975
  • Beam: 49.250
  • Floor: 49.025

Red Rocks individual scores

1st Rotation: Vault (49.275)

  • Maile O'Keefe: 9.800
  • Cammy Hall: 9.150
  • Lucy Stanhope: 9.850
  • Jaedyn Rucker: 9.825
  • Alexia Burch: 9.925
  • Grace McCallum: 9.875

2nd Rotation: Bars (49.550)

  • Amelie Morgan: 9.900
  • Grace McCallum: 10.0
  • Abby Paulson: 9.800
  • Sage Thompson: 9.900
  • Maile O'Keefe: 9.825
  • Cristal Isa: 9.925

3rd Rotation: Beam (49.650)

  • Amelie Morgan: 9.925
  • Grace McCallum: 9.850
  • Alexia Burch: 9.800
  • Abby Paulson: 9.975
  • Cristal Isa: 9.950
  • Maile O'Keefe: 9.950

4th Rotation: Floor (49.525)

  • Abby Paulson: 9.800
  • Jaylene Gilstrap: 9.875
  • Jaedyn Rucker: 9.850
  • Grace McCallum: 9.950
  • Maile O'Keefe: 9.925
  • Sydney Soloski: 9.925

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Josh is the Sports Director for KSL.com and beat writer of University of Utah athletics — primarily football, men’s basketball and gymnastics. He is also an Associated Press Top 25 voter for college football.

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