Utes finishes strong to claim fifth title in conference
Minutes after the Utah gymnastics team took a slight lead at the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships, it looked like the Utes were getting tense. First, Grace McCallum faltered on beam, scoring a 9.85, then Alexia Burch also fell back, scoring 9.8.
Next up was Abby Paulson, a gymnast who had an unpredictable season. Utah fans who have followed the team this year must have known that its routine could determine the outcome of the conference meeting.
Paulson didn’t let the moment get to her as the junior delivered her best balance beam routine of the year.
The near-perfect performance was worth a 9.975, but in reality it was worth so much more.
It was just the routine the Utes needed to soothe the nerves and get them rolling toward the 2022 Pac-12 Championship at the Maverik Center on Saturday.
The Utes also won the championship in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2021, but this one was particularly sweet as Utah shared the regular season title with the other teams competing in their session after they all tied with records of 5-2. The Utes lost to Cal and Arizona in the regular season.
“Let’s fix this,” fifth-year Sydney Soloski said of the competition. “Those three teams are amazing teams, even in the first session they’re amazing and it was cool to get a second chance. We still love the Pac-12s, it’s a fun matchup, but it was a bit more special, no co-champions.
Utah’s McCallum won the uneven bars title with a 10.0, Paulson won the balance beam with her effort and Burch won the vault with a 9.925. Jade Carey of Oregon State won the floor with a 9.975 and the all-around with a 39.725.
Earlier today, Maile O’Keefe was named Pac-12 Specialist of the Year.
Paulson’s beam routine propelled the Utes to 49.65 on the event, with Cristal Isa and Maile O’Keefe scoring 9.95 and Amelie Morgan a 9.925.
Jump: Alexia Burch (Utah) 9.925
Uneven Bars: Grace McCallum (Utah) 10.0
Beam: Abby Paulson (Utah) 9.975
Flooring: Jade Carey (State of Oregon) 9.95
All-around: Jade Carey (Oregon State) 39.725
1. Utah 198; 2.Cal 197.425; 3. Oregon State 197.25; 4. UCLA 196.95; 5. Arizona State 196.675; 6.Washington 196.4; 7.Arizona 196.362; 8.Stanford 196.0
That effort gave Utah a 148.475 heading into the final rotation with Oregon State in second (148.075), Cal in third (148.025) and Arizona State in fourth (147.45).
Utah closed the ground encounter scoring 49.525 with McCallum scoring 9.95 and O’Keefe and Soloski scoring 9.925.
The last two events were so dominant for the Utes that it was easy to forget they started in a vault hole, scoring just 49.275, with Burch the only gymnast to break the 9.9 mark with a 9.925.
That puts the Utes behind Oregon State (49.45) and Cal (49.425).
Utah took a big step on the uneven bars where McCallum earned his second 10.0 of the season on the event, leading Utah at 49.55.
Isa had a 9.925 and Sage Thompson and Amelie Morgan had 9.9s.
Utah coach Tom Farden said he could feel things changing with McCallum’s bars routine.
“She was in her element today,” Farden said. “She dropped that takedown and it was cool to see.”
The big effort pushed the Utes into the lead, setting the Utes up for their dominating efforts in the final two events.
“We were focused on the fight,” O’Keefe said. “We knew one set couldn’t determine the end and we kept going.”
The Utes will find out Tuesday at 10 a.m. draft show where they will go for the NCAA Regional Championships from March 30-April 2.
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