Tucson, Ariz. • This time UCLA didn’t step out, it stepped up.
UCLA won the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championship on Saturday night, wresting it away from defending champion Utah by scoring 197.5 while the Utes were second with 197.35. California was third with 196.95 and Washington was fourth with 196.75.
In the afternoon session, Oregon State finished with a 196.575, followed by Arizona State (196.425), Stanford (196.35) and Arizona (195.825).
Utah coach Tom Farden said it felt like the Utes never found their rhythm until the last event of the night, the vault.
“We wanted them to compete the way they did on vault for the whole meet,” Farden said. “They were relaxed on vault but pressing a bit too much earlier, and when you do that, you can get a little tentative. They keep scores for a reason, and we were hoping to come home with another Pac-12 title but we are going to have to settle for second.”
The Utes weren’t totally shut out, though, as Utah sophomore MyKayla Skinner defended her all-around title, tying UCLA’s Kyla Ross with a 39.675. Skinner also tied for the floor title with a 9.95, and teammate MaKenna Merrell-Giles won vault with a 9.95.
Skinner, who also won the floor title in 2017, earned 9.925 on the bars and 9.9 on the beam to add to her all-around total.
“She was in her element tonight,” Farden said. “She had a good demeanor about her and she performed beautiful gymnastics top to bottom.”
The Bruins lost to the Utes in the regular season when they had three step-outs on the floor, but they were near perfect on that event Saturday to close out the meet.
The Bruins also won the title in 2012 and 2016.
The meet was about as unpredictable as predicted. Cal took an early lead thanks to a huge opening rotation on the balance beam, then the Utes came back and led with a 98.55 at the halfway mark while Cal was second with 98.475, UCLA third with 98.425 and Washington fourth with 98.325.
The Bruins had trouble on the bars, where they had to count two lower scores that led to a 49.15.
But anyone who counted out the Bruins certainly regretted that decision minutes later when UCLA came back on the beam.
UCLA scored a 49.575 on the beam led by a 10.0 from Christine Peng-Peng Lee.
The Utes had a strong showing on the floor, scoring 49.325, led by Skinner’s 9.95, but it just wasn’t enough to hold off the charging Bruins, who had a 148.025 to lead going into the final rotation while the Utes were second (147.825), Cal third (147.775) and Washington fourth.
Utah did its best to rally, scoring a 49.475 on the vault with Tiffani Lewis (9.9), Kim Tessen (9.9), Merrell-Giles (9.95) and Skinner (9.9) also throwing big vaults.
The Bruins weren’t going to be denied this time, though, as they scored 49.475 on the floor to match the Utes’ effort and close out the meet.
“It was a great competition,” Farden said. “The Pac-12 continues to impress with the level of gymnastics. It is becoming incredibly strong.”
In short • UCLA uses a huge showing on the balance beam to win its third Pac-12 Gymnastics Championship.
Key moment • Christine Peng-Peng Lee scores a 10.0 to put an exclamation mark on the Bruins’ 49.575 effort on the balance beam.
Key stat• Utah has four of its six vaulters score 9.9 or higher for a 49.475,but it isn’t enough to catch the Bruins.
Vault • MaKenna Merrell-Giles (Utah)9.95
Uneven bars • Christine Peng-Peng Lee (UCLA)10.0
Balance beam • Kyla Ross (UCLA) 9.975
Floor •Katelyn Shashi (UCLA) and MyKayla Skinner (Utah)9.95
All-around • MyKayla Skinner (Utah) and Kyla Ross (UCLA)39.675