SALT LAKE CITY — Utah gymnastics added some additional hardware to its well-stocked trophy case over the weekend.
With the win over No. 12 Washington on Sunday, the No. 4-ranked Red Rocks won the inaugural Pac-12 regular-season championship.
“To me, this championship means as much to our program as the other championships that I have been a part of.” — Utah coach Tom Farden
The regular-season title is new to the conference this season. Prior to this year, teams were not required to compete against all seven conference opponents during the regular season. That changed in 2020 and will continue to be the case going forward. As a result, a regular-season Pac-12 championship has become a reality, a new goal for teams to aspire to.
How does a regular-season conference title compare to a win at the Pac-12 Women’s Gymnastics Championships, though? That will be a question asked by many ahead of the conference championships, a pair of one-day winner-take-all competitions, which are slated for March 21 at the Maverik Center in West Valley City.
Since 2011, the Pac-12 championships have been the be-all and end-all of conference competition. Now, is it more impressive to win a regular-season title, or, what equates to a postseason conference tournament? Which is more difficult? More demonstrative of a team’s postseason potential?
The answer to those questions depends on a host of things, including a team’s regular-season schedule — whether they host the top teams or face them on the road. There is also how much competition on podium is valued, something team’s will largely only experience at the conference championships themselves.
Then there is sports philosophy in general — do you subscribe to the more European line of thought that the regular season determines the championship, or the more American way of thinking that tournaments are the way to go.
Which championship is more meaningful will probably be debated forever — the answer could be neither — but the 2020 regular-season Pac-12 championship could not mean more to Utah.
“To me, this championship means as much to our program as the other championships that I have been a part of,” head coach Tom Farden said.
Farden’s belief is due in large part to what the Red Rocks pulled off over the last month of competition. Over a four week period, Utah defeated No. 3 UCLA, No. 9 California and the No. 13-ranked Huskies on the road, rallying to win twice. Throw in a home victory over No. 14 Oregon State, and Utah took on the very best of the Pac-12, in mostly hostile environments, and walked away undefeated.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t say that it is almost harder to do than it is to win in a single competition,” said Farden. “That was extremely challenging winning the way we did, beating the top three teams on the road in a condensed schedule. That means as much to our program as the other championships that I have been a part of, because we had to be good every week.”
Farden wouldn’t say how much fun he had during that stretch, though he did concede that he couldn’t remember a more competitive run of meets in his time at Utah. That bodes well for the Red Rocks’ postseason future.
“I absolutely believe there is no substitution for being challenged in meets like that,” Farden said. “In my estimation if you can prepare your team and they can come out the other side of the tight meets like that, those are the types of teams that you really remember. We are extremely grateful that the kids are not willing to back down and want to fight to the finish.”
IS CORONAVIRUS A THREAT TO THE POSTSEASON?: With the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hovering over sporting events of late, including the 2020 Summer Olympics, March Madness and more, it is only fair to wonder if the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships will be affected. There is no real answer on that front as of yet, said Farden.
“Internally, we haven’t been notified of anything,” he said. “Not at this time.”
Red Rocks on the air
No. 4 Utah (197.335) vs. Stanford (195.685)
Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City
Friday, 7 p.m. MST
Live stream: UtahUtes.com