Utah gymnastics: Utes slip to disappointing 3rd-place finish at Pac-12 Championships
By Lya Wodraska
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Mar 23 2013 11:13PM
Corvallis, Ore. • One time, two times, perhaps next year, that third time will be the charm for Utah’s gymnastics team. But for now, the Pac-12 Championships are nothing but lessons in the pain of shortcomings.
The top-seeded Utes led the field going into the final rotation Saturday but once again were beaten by the balance beam.
Three routines with major breaks dropped the Utes from first to third as home team Oregon State surged to the win with a 197.85 while UCLA was second (197.375), followed by Utah (197.075) and Stanford (196.625). Earlier in the day, Washington had the high score in the afternoon session with a 195.875 followed by Arizona (195.525), Cal (195.075) and Arizona State (193.425).
Saturday’s meet was similar to the 2012 showdown when falls by Mary Beth Lofgren and Kassandra Lopez dropped the Utes into second behind the Bruins. Those two redeemed themselves with clutch performances Saturday, but their teammates couldn’t do the same.
Utah went into the final rotation with a 148.25, while Oregon State was second with 148.175, UCLA third with 147.875 and Stanford fourth with 147.45.
The lead dissipated as fast as an Oregon rainstorm with leadoff gymnast Becky Tutka suffering a major break and scoring 9.625.
Freshman Breanna Hughes also had trouble, scoring 9.7. Tory Wilson finally earned the Utes’ first big score with a 9.8.
However, Oregon State was rolling through its uneven bars rotation, posting one big score after another.
The Beavers pulled ahead of the Utes after four routines, taking a 187.75-187.225 advantage into the last two.
By then the home crowd could sense the Beavers, who where ranked just 10th, were about to pull off the upset.
A 10.0 from Makayla Stambaugh sealed the win for the Beavers, while the Utes closed out with a 9.85 from Lofgren and a 9.4 from Dabritz.
Thanks to its long history of national success, most assumptions were that Utah’s gymnastics team would be the first program to win a Pac-12 team title for the Utes.
That they have come so close but haven’t been able to finish was grating for coach Greg Marsden.
"It is too bad," he said. "It is hard to close out on that event and at times we have been able to do that this year, but not tonight. We were competing to stay on the beam. It is hard to be upset because we didn’t count a fall, but we did everything but fall in some of the routines. We had some little hops on bars too, but those were little things."
Being so close to their first title was both satisfying and maddening at the same time for the Utes. All-American Kailah Delaney has missed the whole season with a knee injury and Pac-12 defending all-around champion Corrie Lothrop went down in the fourth meet of the season with a torn Achilles tendon.
While her injury made the Utes weaker on paper, it solidified the team as a group as the Utes have steadily improved through the latter half of the season.
Beating top-ranked Florida at home and earning the top seed for the Pac-12 meet was a big boost of confidence for the Utes. Losing Saturday’s contest knocked them down a few notches.
"All we can do is hope we learn from this and improve for the future," Marsden said. "We have to get back in the gym and get back to work and get ready for regionals."