Pac-12 championships highlight a big weekend for gymnasts across Utah

Utah, SUU, BYU and Utah State will all be in action.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jaedyn Rucker celebrates a 10 on the vault as Utah hosts California, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023.

As great as Utah’s gymnastics team is on the balance beam, it could have been tempting for coach Tom Farden to elect starting or ending on the event. Instead, he went with an old standby.

The fifth-ranked Utes, who enter Saturday’s Pac-12 meet at the Maverik Center as the second seed behind No. 4 UCLA, elected to start on the uneven bars. UCLA selected to start on vault and Cal, which had the third pick, will start on floor, leaving Oregon State to start on beam.

In the 1 p.m. session, Arizona State will start on vault, Stanford on the floor, Washington on the beam and Arizona on the floor.

“We like bars, it feels like a good spot for us,” Farden said. “The athletes are used to starting there on the road and getting in a good rhythm, then letting it rip on the other events.”

The Utes lost the No. 1 seed last week after losing at Oregon State in a 197.95-197.7 decision, while UCLA closed out its regular season with a 198.275-195.55 win over Iowa State to have the higher national qualifying score average. The NQS is derived by taking the six highest scores, three of which must be from away meets, eliminating the high and averaging the remaining ones.

Losing the top seed stung a bit, Farden admitted, but said his team is up for the challenge of Saturday.

“They are determined and excited to get this postseason underway,” he said. “We made some mistakes Saturday, but there were a lot of positives, too.”

The Utes won the last two championships as well as the 2014, 2015 and 2017 titles. The competition was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The Utes rested Jillian Hoffman against Oregon State and Kara Eaker missed her second straight meet due to a post-concussion protocol.

“It’s a matter of working through the progressions, waiting 24 hours and seeing if you can take a step forward or back,” Farden said.

Jaylene Gilstrap replaced Eaker on beam and scored a 9.85 and a 9.9 the last two meets.

Utah isn’t the only local team competing this weekend. In Cedar City, BYU, Southern Utah, Utah State and Boise State compete in the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Championship Friday at 6 p.m.

Last year Utah State scored a 197.025 to win its first league title.

SUU is the favorite this season with the T-Birds sporting a No. 21 ranking and a 196.765 NQS. BYU is No. 34 (196.295), Boise State is No. 35 (196.225) and Utah State is No. 45 (195.56).

How to watch

Pac-12 Championships

Maverik Center

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Afternoon session, Saturday 1 p.m.

No. 14 Arizona State (197.105), No. 19 Stanford (196.93), No. 27 Washington (196.585), No. 28 Arizona (196.57).

Evening Session, Saturday 6 p.m.

No. 4 UCLA (197.94), No. 5 Utah (197.845), No. 7 Cal (197.765), No. 11 Oregon State (197.49)

*National qualifying score in parentheses