Can Utah’s MyKayla Skinner win her third straight all-around at the Pac-12 gymnastics championships? UCLA’s Kyla Ross may have something to say about that.
(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) MyKayla Skinner competes on the uneven bars, in PAC-12 Gymnastics action between the Utes and The California Golden Bears, in the Jon M. Huntsman Center, in Salt Lake City, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019.
As college gymnastics teams use more and more specialists, the value of the all-around title has been diminished some. But that isn’t true in the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships where the competition for the title is front and center thanks to the presence of UCLA’s Kyla Ross and Utah’s MyKayla Skinner.
The two are among the nation’s elite with Ross ranked No. 1 in the all-around averaging 39.75 while Skinner is third with a 39.66 average.
“They are both such great competitors it ups the level of gymnastics,” Utah coach Megan Marsden said. “We will see how close to a 40 it is going to be. They are both exciting athletes so it is good for the sport and good for MyKayla and Kyla.”
Last year the two tied for the Pac-12 all-around title, with both scoring 39.675. Skinner won the title outright in 2017 with a 39.725. Ross didn’t compete in the all-around that year.
This season, Ross won the head-to-head meeting totaling 39.775 in the all-around to Skinner’s 39.75.
Top All-Around Competitors in Pac-12
Ranking Name School Regional Qualifying Score
1. Kyla Ross UCLA 39.75
3. MyKayla Skinner Utah 39.66
11. MaKenna Merrell-Giles Utah 39.565
21. Kari Lee Utah 39.355
24. Kyla Bryant Stanford 39.345
While Ross might be the numerical favorite, Skinner will have the majority of the crowd
behind her and her own competitiveness which has driven her to become one of the most successful gymnasts in NCAA history with 105 career wins, two NCAA titles (floor, 2017) and vault (2018) and five Pac-12 titles.
What is remarkable about Skinner is she is successful individually because she doesn’t make her own achievements a focus. Sometimes a standout’s success can become distracting to a team or consuming for that gymnast, but Skinner has found a way to thrive individually by putting the team first.
“She has a competitive spirit but she knows how to channel it,” Marsden said. “She has done it long enough now, her best work happens when she is focused on the team.”
So while Skinner is well aware of the all-around competition, she predictably said it isn’t her main focus.
“I just want to go there and do my thing and hope for the best,” she said. “I want to help the team out and that comes first and it would be cool to win the all-around a third time, I’m just going to focus on every single part of it.”
That the Pac-12 Championship will feature two of the top all-around competitors in the nation is a bit unusual since more and more teams are relying on specialists.
Except when resting or sidelined with an injury, Skinner has been a constant in the all-around her entire career at Utah. She is one of five Pac-12 all-around winners the Utes have produced since joining the league in 2012.
It’s a tip of the hat to the level of talent that Utah has had, but also the recruiting style that the Utes follow of looking for the best overall athletes.
“We have a smaller team because of that but that is just how we recruit,” Marsden said.
Utah has virtually owned the Pac-12 all-around title, with a gymnast winning it every year except the 2013 title when UCLA’s Vanessa Zamarripa won.
Skinner would love to win again, but is keeping her eyes on the overall picture.
“This isn’t going to last forever,” she said of her college career. “I just want to be at championships, enjoying the moment and helping out Utah.”
Saturday, 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Teams with rankings and regional qualifying score averages
Session 1 teams: No. 18 Washington (196.505); No. 21 Arizona State (196.18); No. 26 Stanford (195.905); No. 30 Arizona (195.7)
Session 2 teams: No. 2 UCLA (197.885); No. 6 Utah (197.375); No. 14 Oregon State (196.575); No. 16 California (196.54)