They worked hard this week — we had a great week of practice and we are just really proud of this overall effort tonight. – Utah co-head coach Tom Farden
STANFORD — Utah’s gymnastics team got the meet it has been wanting all season, and it came at the most opportune time with Utah winning the 2017 Pac-12 championship. The Red Rocks were solid from start to finish, producing four great events in a season-high 197.925 effort.
Utah was followed by Oregon State (197.4), Washington (197.1) and UCLA (197.1), Stanford (196.625), Arizona (196.3), Cal (196.275) and Arizona State (195.6).
“This was a team effort, our gymnasts were great,” said Utah co-head coach Tom Farden. “They worked hard this week — we had a great week of practice and we are just really proud of this overall effort tonight.”
The championship was Utah’s third in the last four years, and the first under the new coaching regime of co-head coaches Megan Marsden and Farden and assistant Meredith Paulicivic, who started last year. Farden and Marsden were on staff for Utah's previous two championships, which Farden noted were equally special, but admitted Saturday night's title meant a lot to the group.
The Red Rocks never trailed in the meet, but they didn’t lead from start to finish as Washington matched Utah’s opening score at 49.425 (beam). The score was Utah’s second-best this year on bars. Utah mixed things up with its lineup, giving freshman MyKayla Skinner, the conference’s best gymnast all season, the starting nod. The Olympic alternate has had ice in her veins all season, hitting all 44 of her routines, and called getting the starting nod her favorite moment of the night.
“I just felt like we had to continue to find the right combination of lineups, and as you can see I still played with bars, vault and floor lineups in the postseason tonight. We’ve got to find the right combination to give us the highest scoring combination,” said Farden.
Utah followed up its bars efforts with its second-best beam set (49.4) of the year to take the outright lead after two rotations.
Beam didn’t begin as Utah expected with the usually reliable Maddy Stover wobbling herself to a 9.625 in the leadoff position. But MaKenna Merrell followed with a 9.85 to kick off a strong finish for Utah that included 9.9s by Skinner, Kari Lee and Baely Rowe to anchor the set.
Floor was something special to watch as Utah didn’t count a score below 9.9, highlighted by Skinner’s second 10.0 of the season on the event. Utah finished with a 49.625 to increase its margin.
"That 10.0 was well-deserved," said Farden. "MyKayla executed well all night long, and you could tell she was in the zone."
That left only vault, where Utah put an exclamation point on the meet with its best vault effort of the year at 49.475. Tiffani Lewis hit a career-best 9.95.
Skinner won the all-around with a 39.725, and added the floor (10.0) title. She also tied for the vault win (9.95) with teammate Lewis and Oregon State’s Dani Dessaints. The bars title went to the Beavers’ Erika Aufiero (9.95), while beam went to UCLA’s Kyla Ross with the meet’s other 10.0.
Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference Championships (MRGC)
Boise State won its third MRGC title (197.05), followed by Utah State (196.1), Southern Utah (196.075) and BYU (194.675).