Utah gymnastics has had UCLA’s number this season.
In the three meetings between the storied programs — heated Pac-12 conference rivals — the Red Rocks have come out on top each time, most recently Saturday night in the Los Angeles Regional final.
The latest win, more so perhaps than a regular-season victory at the Huntsman Center or a Pac-12 championship-winning performance at the Maverik Center, seemingly has established once and for all that the 2023 Red Rocks are the better team.
After all, Utah went into Los Angeles and defeated a UCLA team on its home turf, in a meet where Bruins’ stars Jordan Chiles and Selena Harris both scored perfect 10s — Chiles on floor, Harris on vault.
The thing is, Utah will most likely have to defeat UCLA one more time this season if the Red Rocks are to have a shot at competing for a national title.
The Bruins, along with No. 1-ranked Oklahoma and No. 9-ranked Kentucky, will join Utah in one of two national semifinal meets in Fort Worth, Texas on April 13.
The top two finishing teams in the meet will advance to the Final Four — the national championship meet — and with the top-ranked Sooners in the group the odds are that only one of Utah and UCLA will make it to the final meet of the season, barring a significant upset.
Utah is currently in the midst of an impressive winning streak over UCLA. Including Saturday night, the Red Rocks have defeated the Bruins eight straight times going back to 2020.
That is by far Utah’s longest winning streak against UCLA since the schools have been in the Pac-12 together, and the longest winning streak for the Red Rocks against the Bruins since the mid to late 2000s (2005 through 2009).
It hasn’t been a one-sided rivalry, though.
UCLA won five straight against Utah in 2018 and 2019 and had an eight meet winning streak of its own from 2011 through 2013.
Utah has never beaten UCLA four times in one season with both teams in the Pac-12. UCLA has managed it once, in 2012.
The Red Rocks will have to pull off the feat — and avoid letting UCLA play spoilers like Utah did to the Bruins in both 2014 and 2018 — in order to advance to the Final Four for the third consecutive season.
Utah has a lot of confidence heading into nationals.
As senior Cristal Isa put it Saturday night: “I think (our ceiling) is really up to your imagination, but it is pretty freaking good. I think we have been focused on peaking at the right time during postseason and I think we are actually catching our stride.
“Our regular season was amazing, but I don’t think it is really reflective of what we can do these next two weeks.”
It will take at least one more historic performance against the Bruins for Utah to get to where it wants to be, though, which is on the national championship stage in Fort Worth.