If Utah’s gymnastics team was ever to get cocky this season, the national rankings were there to bring the Utes back to reality.
By almost any measure the Utes have had a terrific year, going undefeated in the Pac-12 and suffering a lone loss at Oklahoma.
But instead of climbing the national rankings, the Utes have been slipping and are now just sixth nationally with a national qualifying score of 197.469. Oklahoma and Florida are tied for first (197.944), followed by Michigan (197.788), LSU (197.7) and California (197.575).
That the Utes lost a spot to Cal this week means Utah is the second seed going into Saturday’s Pac-12 Championships at the Maverik Center.
Cal, finished the regular season with a 197.6-196.025 win over Washington while the Utes beat Utah State 197.275-196.5.
Suddenly Utah’s season doesn’t look so dominating.
“It’s a dog fight,” Utah coach Tom Farden said. “It’s unreal. The one thing we have to lean on is our mark of consistency. Our consistency is incredible but when you look at the national scene, it’s highly competitive.”
Since Utah is the second seed, the Utes had to wait until Cal decided what rotation it wanted for the Pac-12 Championships. No surprise it selected to start on the vault while Utah picked the uneven bars.
PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIPS WILL BE FANLESS, BUT SOME SPECTATORS ALLOWED FOR NCAA REGIONAL
In addition to hosting the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships, the Maverik Center in West Valley City will host the NCAA Gymnastics Regional scheduled for April 1-2 since it has more space for social distancing measures.
The Maverik Center will allow up to 25 percent capacity per the NCAA spectator guidelines for championship events.
Ticket pricing and purchase information will be announced by the NCAA at a later event.
Spectators are not allowed for the Pac-12 Championships.
The Pac-12 Gymnastics will be televised by the Pac-12 Network.
Farden believes it will be a good rotation for his team. Being the second seed might not be so bad either since it could serve as motivation for a team that had its worst performance of the year against the Aggies, in the opinion of senior Sydney Soloski who called out her teammates for not performing their best.
Her reaction suited Farden just fine.
“We have some vocal leaders on this team who see the potential,” he said. “If that doesn’t give them a charge, I don’t know what would.”
Even though the Utes have faced their Pac-12 opponents, they still aren’t sure how they totally stack up against not only the league, but national competition.
Normally scores can be compared nationwide with some certainty because the judges come from a national pool. Traditionally scores in the east are slightly higher, but with at least two of the four judges being from out of state, those tendencies can be leveled.
This year, due to COVID-19 precautions, teams are allowed to use in-state judges to cut down on travel, so the scoring trends don’t have as much of a national scope. Whether or not that has skewed the numbers is anyone’s guess.
“We’ve seen other teams on TV and we know our conference is a beast in head to head,” Farden said. “There are at least eight schools that are highly competitive.”
All the Utes can do is focus on nipping away at their little mistakes.
The miscues against the Aggies came from gymnasts who have been very consistent, so Farden isn’t concerned to the point he is looking to make lineup changes.
The main thing is making sure the Utes don’t think too highly of themselves. A glance at the rankings should take care of that.
“No one can get comfortable with the status quo,” he said.
PAC-12 GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIP
At the Maverik Center
When • Saturday, 7 p.m.
7 p.m. session • Cal (vault) Utah (bars), Arizona State (beam), UCLA (floor)
Noon session • Arizona (vault), Oregon State (bars), Stanford (beam), Washington (floor)
(Teams listed with the event in which they begin)
TV • Pac-12 Networks