Utah Gymnastics Adds Another Pac-12 Championship Trophy to the Case


Jonathan Wang

The Red Rocks celebrate as Pac-12 champions at the Maverick Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday March 19, 2022. (Photo by Jonathan Wang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Chase Mullin, Assistant Sports Editor


It is only fitting that the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships on Saturday took place at the Maverik Center, as after a regular season which saw the University of Utah gymnastics team finish ranked No. 4 in the country, the Red Rocks had the chance to secure their second consecutive conference title in front of a sea of red in West Valley City.

Perhaps because it was the Pac-12 Championships, or even possibly due to the fact that unlike at the Huntsman Center, fans are allowed to purchase $12 beers at the Maverik Center, the atmosphere was electric.

For those who don’t live and breathe college gymnastics, the Pac-12 Championships are an annual competition following the completion of the regular season which features all eight gymnastics programs in the conference. The meet is split up into two four-team sessions, with the afternoon session consisting of the conference’s bottom four teams from the year and the evening session featuring the top four teams.

Despite a rather dominant regular season, Utah had unfinished business heading into Saturday’s championship affair after ending the regular season in a four-way tie for first place in the conference. Had they not have suffered an upset at the feet of No. 10 California earlier in the year, Utah would have sat alone at the top of the conference at the end of the regular season. Instead, they found themselves in a four-way tie with California, No. 13 Oregon State, and No. 14 Arizona State, setting the stage for an evening session that would settle the score between the conference’s four regular-season champions.

The only potential threat to any of the teams in the evening session from the afternoon session was No. 16 UCLA, as the Bruins were the only team outside of the top four in the Pac-12 to have posted a score above 198.000 this season. The Bruins had an impressive performance, finishing with a 196.950, but considering the fact that Utah had only posted one score all season below 197.000, it was safe to assume after the afternoon session that the conference championship would be decided in the evening.

The Red Rocks opened the evening session on vault, and despite being ranked No. 4 in the nation in the event, Utah’s vault lineup produced a relatively mediocre performance considering the standards they set during the regular season, ultimately posting a 49.275. Alexia Burch led the way for the Red Rocks with a 9.925 score.

“Not picture-perfect,” said head coach Tom Farden about the team’s vault performance. “But it definitely felt like after vault we threw that in the rearview mirror and put our blinders on and went forward from there.”

Oregon State found themselves in first place after the opening rotation with a score of 49.450, thanks largely to a 9.950 beam routine from Jade Carey, causing the roughly 15 Oregon State fans who made the trip from Corvallis to erupt.

A catalyst for Utah all season, freshman and Olympic silver-medalist Grace McCallum made it clear that she ate her Wheaties Saturday morning with a perfect 10 on bars in the second rotation. McCallum’s 10 as well as a 9.925 from senior Cristal Isa helped give Utah a 49.550 overall score on bars, propelling the Red Rocks into first place with a total score of 98.825 after two rotations.

Ranked No. 1 in the nation for the event, Utah’s beam lineup did not disappoint in the third rotation. Any cheers from fans of California, UCLA, or Oregon State throughout the arena were completely, utterly overpowered by Utah fans after Abby Paulson posted a 9.975. Happy for their teammate but seeking some love from the crowd for themselves, Cristal Isa and Maile O’Keefe posted back-to-back 9.950’s, causing the Utah faithful to erupt once again.

After a 49.650 team score on beam, Utah remained atop the scoreboard heading into the fourth rotation with an overall score of 148.475, while California, with a 148.200, trailed close behind. In the fourth and final rotation, Utah moved to the floor, where Grace McCallum posted a 9.950, essentially putting the meet out of reach. Maile O’Keefe would follow with a 9.950 of her own, officially clinching the Pac-12 Championship for Utah before anchor Sydney Soloski even had a chance to perform.

With a total score of 198.000, the University of Utah gymnastics team now heads to the NCAA regional competition with their eyes set on a national title, and the preparation begins this week. For tonight, however, Utah will enjoy this victory, and you might be able to catch some of the gymnasts celebrating at one of Salt Lake’s finer establishments such as X-Wives Place. Although Utah has had a couple of hiccups this season that have raised doubts amongst critics, the Red Rocks looked like a national championship-caliber team on Saturday.


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