Utes, Southern Utah will face off in gymnastics regional

The Red Rocks will head to Los Angeles for the competition on March 30.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kara Eaker scores a 9.975 on the beam as Utah hosts California, NCAA gymnastics in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023.

Utah’s gymnastics team will be in familiar territory for the NCAA Regional meet this year as the Utes were seeded into the Los Angeles regional.

The fifth-ranked Utes will join No. 12 Auburn, Southern Utah and Washington in the afternoon session at 3 p.m. on March 30. The evening session will feature No. 4 UCLA, No. 13 Missouri, Stanford and the winner of the play-in round between Boise State and BYU.

The top two teams from each session advance to the Regional final on April 1 at 6 p.m. MT, with the top two finishers from that competition advancing to the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, April 13-15.

Utah, which has won 30 NCAA regional titles, is the only team to qualify for every NCAA championship.

Saturday, the Utes claimed their third straight Pac-12 title by posting a 197.925. UCLA was second with a 197.85.

The Utes defeated UCLA in the regular season, 198.2-197.45 in the Huntsman Center, but given that the Bruins will be the host this time it is expected the regional title could come down to the Pac-12 teams.

“I feel like going there is a positive,” Utah coach Tom Farden said of the short trip to the West Coast. “We have been there many times. We know the area and the arena, and the rivalry we have built with UCLA is good.”

Utah also has wins over SUU (197.75-196.175), Washington (197.975-196.35), Stanford (197.6-196.7250, 197.925-195.875) and BYU (197.75-195.175).

The Utes haven’t faced Auburn, Missouri or Boise State this year.

Utah enters the regionals in a good position both mentally and physically. The Utes got Kara Eaker back in the lineup after she missed the last two meets with a concussion, and Lucy Stanhope is returning to form on the vault after recovering from her own injury.

Mentally, the team showed some fortitude after climbing from third to first in the Pac-12 meet.

“They have a never-quit attitude,” Farden said. “They made mistakes, but they didn’t quit.”

How difficult the postseason could be was indicated by the scores in the various league championships.

While Utah was in a battle at the Maverik Center, there were other big scores all around, with Oklahoma winning the Big 12 Conference with a 198.4, Florida winning the SEC with a 198.425 and Michigan winning the Big Ten with a 198.0.

The Sooners head into the regionals with a 198.355 national qualifying score. The other top five are Florida (198.11), Michigan (198.08), UCLA (197.95) and Utah (197.91).

“With the format we have now, I don’t think any team can take it for granted of making it to the national championships,” Farden said.

NCAA Gymnastics Regionals

March 29-April 1

Norman Regional

No. 8 Alabama, No. 9 Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa; Session 2 No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 16 Ohio State, Arkansas, North Carolina State/Ball State

Denver Regional

No. 6 LSU, No. 11 Oregon State, Georgia, Nebraska; Session 2 No. 3 Michigan, No. 14 Denver, Minnesota, Arizona/North Carolina

Los Angeles Regional

No. 5 Utah, No. 12 Auburn, Southern Utah, Washington; Session 2 No. 4 UCLA, No. 13 Missouri, Stanford, BYU/Boise State

Pittsburgh Regional

No. 7 Cal, No. 10 Michigan State, Western Michigan, West Virginia; Session 2 No. 2 Florida, No. 15 Arizona State, Maryland, Towson/Penn State