SALT LAKE CITY -- The University of Utah Red Rocks posted their best scores of the season on two events, but a rough beam rotation kept the first-ever Pac-12 Championship title barely out of reach.
The seventh-ranked Utes, who were second-seeded coming into the championship, decided to go back to their early-season lineups throughout the night in hopes of regaining confidence and seeing the higher scores they'd earned earlier in the season, a move that proved successful as the Red Rocks posted a 197.375, despite having to count a fall on beam.
Utah started the night on vault, with typical scores for the team; steps on landings for most of the gymnasts, including Kyndal Robarts, who is capable of a 9.975, kept the scores from being higher. Corrie Lothrop, one of Utah's two all-around competitors, and Kailah Delaney, both posted 9.90s. Utah counted nothing lower than a 9.80 and finished with a 49.300 on the event.
The Red Rocks went into their second event--bars--tied for second with fourth-ranked UCLA on floor. Stanford held the lead after the beam with a 49.50. Oregon State was a close fourth with a 49.20 after the bars.
Utah has been inconsistent on the bars throughout the season, but they brought their best Saturday night. Kassandra Lopez started the event with a 9.85 and Utah only got better. Two gymnasts scored 9.90s, two scored 9.925s and Georgia Dabritz won the event with a 9.95. The 49.600 was the best rotation score of any team in the championship and the Utes' best score of the season on any event.
Stanford led midway through the meet with a 98.925, Utah in a close second with a 98.90, UCLA in third with a 98.850 and Oregon State with a 98.475.
Two of Utah's first three gymnasts fell on the beam, their worst rotation of the night, forcing the final three to achieve near perfection to keep the Red Rocks in the running. Fortunately, they were able to stay on the beam, despite some slight wobbles. Robarts had a clean, strong routine, and scored a 9.95, the highest mark for the Utes. Utah finished with a 48.950 despite having to count a 9.350 from Mary Beth Lofgren.
The Red Rocks would have to hope for struggles on the final rotation from the other three teams and score high on the floor, their final event, to nab first place.
Robarts was the only gymnast to perform below average on the floor as she stumbled on her second tumbling pass and nearly went out of bounds, finishing with a disappointing 9.70. Three gymnasts--McAllister, Dabritz and Nansy Damianova--scored 9.925s on the event. Corrie Lothrop added a 9.90 and lead-off performer Becky Tutka added a 9.850 for a total of 49.550, their best floor score of the season.
"We kind of shot ourselves in the foot and had a couple mistakes on beam. We felt like we had taken ourselves out of the meet at that point, so we were just over there kind of having fun, trying to finish off floor like Utah does and entertain our fans," said Utah head coach Greg Marsden.
Stanford held a solid lead after the first three rotations and looked to be unstoppable, but multiple falls and struggles on the bars dropped the Cardinal from first to fourth as they finished with a 48.450 on the event. They finished with a 196.825 for the night.
"I thought we had a great meet on three events. Best three events we have had all year," said Stanford head coach Krysten Smyth. "Last event, bars, has typically been our best event. So it was extremely uncharacteristic. I think maybe we got a little unfocused on that last event. I am not exactly sure what happened there, it takes all four events."
Oregon State had falls on two rotations, but didn't have to count any in their totals. The Beavers were consistent throughout the night, but their scores weren't as high, and they finished in third with a 197.025, their second highest score of the season.
Olivia Courtney, UCLA's second gymnast on the beam, fell twice and scored a 8.750, then Mattie Larson struggled, adding a 9.70, which put the meet in reach for Utah. But Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs' 9.975 and Vanessa Zamarripa's 9.95 helped the Bruins pull ahead with a 49.375 on the beam and a team total of 197.425, just 0.050 above Utah's final score of 197.375.
"I really didn't think we had a chance going into the last rotation. I know it isn't over until the fat lady sings and all that, and that's what we preach, but it was important to me that our athletes went out and competed well because this is all a dress rehearsal for the national championship scene. Regardless of how we finished, it was important for us to compete as we train in that event and we did," said UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos Field.
Arizona (195.900) finished in fifth, followed by Arizona State (194.550), Washington (194.125) and California (193.525).
Lothrop won the all-around with a 39.625. Zamarripa finished second with a 39.575. McAllister finished third with a 39.525.
"It was exciting to be able to go out and perform my routines like I have been practicing and contribute as much to the team as I could," said Lothrop after the meet.
The next competition for the Utes is the regional competition on April 7. They will compete for a chance to go to the National Championship in Duluth, Georgia. Utah has competed in every NCAA National Championship since its inception in 1982.