Berkeley • All the pressure and all the expectations that Utah’s gymnastics team would be the first program from the school to win a Pac-12 championship is over.
There are no more ifs or whens for the Utes. They are the Pac-12 champions.
The Utes turned their fortunes in stunning fashion from last year’s disappointing third-place finish as the Utes swept virtually every award Saturday at the championships hosted by Cal.
The Utes won the meet with a 197.925, their second-highest score of the season. Stanford was a distant second with a 197.175 followed by Cal (196.55), UCLA (196.525), Oregon State (196.275), Arizona (196.25), Arizona State (195.5) and Washington (195.125).
Junior Tory Wilson won the all-around with a 39.45, Georgia Dabritz won the uneven bars title with a 10.0 and tied for the vault title with a 9.95. Dabritz and teammate Nansy Damianova tied for the floor title with 9.95s.
The only title that escaped the Utes was balance beam, which was won by UCLA’s Samantha Peszek with a 9.925.
That the Utes won in such convincing fashion added to their satisfaction of winning the school’s first Pac-12 title. It also served notice that this Utah team might not be finished.
The fifth-ranked Utes find out on Monday where they will compete in the NCAA Regional Championships in two weeks. The top two teams from each of the six regions will advance to the NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Ala., April 18-20.
The way the Utes looked Saturday, they should be one of the favorites for the NCAAs.
They certainly looked unbeatable, winning the meet in surprisingly easy fashion.
After the meet both Utah’s gymnasts and coaches seemed stunned they’d actually finished first with Wilson describing it as ‘surreal.’
“This is something we have worked so hard for our whole careers,” Wilson said. “It’s a relief. We just went out and did the best we can.”
Utah coach Greg Marsden, who has won 10 national titles in his 39 years as the Utes’ head coach, said winning the Pac-12 championship was a special goal of his.
“While I want all of our programs to do well, I wanted to be the first,” he said. “We let it slip away a couple times and for us to win it like we did today was especially rewarding. There was no doubt in anyone’s minds, we won it convincingly.”
The Utes never trailed in the meet, opening with a 49.4 on the vault, coming within a tenth of matching the school record on the uneven bars with a 49.6 and conquering the balance beam with a 49.275.
Utah capped off its performance with a 49.65 on floor, knowing all it had to do was hit.
“This is an incredible feeling,” said senior Mary Beth Lofgren, who led off the floor exercise with a 9.825. “We didn’t want to hold back or have any regrets.”
A year ago the Utes were the top seed in the meet but took themselves out of the running with a poor effort on the balance beam.
The Utes didn’t have any issues on Saturday as they scored a 49.275. Lofgren and Corrie Lothrop led the team with 9.9s.
“We said all along our challenge was making our weakest event as strong as our others and we are finally doing that,” Marsden said of the beam. “We couldn’t ask for a better effort and I couldn’t be more pleased.”
It helped that the Utes had a lot of momentum going into the balance beam. Utah opened slow on the vault in the first routines, but finished with the last three scoring 9.9s or higher.
The Utes were untouchable from there, particularly after Dabritz earned her perfect score to help the Utes earn a 49.6 on the uneven bars.
“This is something we worked our butts off for since last year,” Dabritz said. “Last year was so disappointing for us. This was so much more fun.”
O In short • Utah’s gymnastics team becomes the first U. program to win a Pac-12 title as the Utes score a 49.6 on the uneven bars and a 49.65 on the floor.
Key moment • Georgia Dabritz earns a 10.0 on the uneven bars as the Utes finish a tenth of a point shy of the school record.
Key stat • The last time the Utes won a conference title was in 1993 as part of the Western Athletic Conference. The title is the Utes’ ninth overall.
(Results may change following evening session)
Vault • Georgia Dabritz (Utah), Aliza Vaccher (Washington), Allison Flores (Arizona), Shelby Edwards (Arizona), 9.95
Uneven bars • Georgia Dabritz (Utah) 10.0
Balance beam • Samantha Peszek (UCLA) 9.925
Floor • Georgia Dabritz (Utah) and Nansy Damianova (Utah) 9.95
All-around • Tory Wilson (Utah) 39.45