Utah gymnastics: Red Rocks eager to host Pac-12 Championships

By Melissa Yack

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, March 23 2012 1:38 p.m. MDT

The University of Utah gymnastics team waves to the crowd following their victory over Stanford in Salt Lake City, Friday, Feb. 24, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah Red Rocks host the Pac-12 Championships Saturday. The first session, which includes No. 17 Arizona, No. 22 Washington, Arizona State and California, begins at 2 p.m. in the Huntsman Center. The second session starts at 7 p.m. and features No. 4 UCLA, No. 7 Utah, No. 8 Oregon State and No. 11 Stanford. Utah will follow the regular meet rotation of vault, bars, beam and floor.

The sessions were determined by the latest national and conference rankings (based on regional qualifying scores), setting up the evening session to most likely produce the conference champion. It is the first time this format has been used by the league.

Utah has already faced UCLA, Arizona State, Stanford and Oregon State this year. Utah won three of the four Pac-12 meets, falling to then-No. 1 UCLA on the road in the first outing of the season.

The Bruins are coming off a bye week, but upset No. 2 Oklahoma the week prior with a 197.525 score. UCLA has garnered the most Pac-10 league titles amongst the member schools at 15. The returning champion Beavers are led by Leslie Mak, who has scored a 39.4 or better in the all-around six times this season. But the senior struggled in Salt Lake earlier this season, recording 9.675 on bars and 9.775 on floor. Stanford also is also coming off a bye week. The Cardinal barely lost to Utah in their last outing in Salt Lake, 196.3-196.1.

"It is exciting to face these teams again, and to see new teams," said senior Stephanie McAllister. "We just missed beating UCLA so it will be fun to have another shot. The Pac-12 is a very talented conference and it's really exciting to be a part of it.

"It can be distracting to have four teams competing at once, but we just need to stay in our bubble and not worry about the other three teams competing at the same time. I think this format will be fun for our fans."

Utah co-head coach Megan Marsden said she's a bit concerned about her team's confidence because the gymnasts often focus on losses. Utah dropped its final two meets of the season to No. 6 Nebraska at home and No. 1 Florida on the road.

"Greg (Marsden) and I are less concerned with the losses than we are with our team being able to put together a solid all-around outing," said Marsden. "We haven't been able to hit on all cylinders lately, but if we've been saving that in our repertoire for the postseason then I'm OK with that."

Marsden noted the gymnasts have been excited all season for the opportunity to compete for a league title. The team spent the week in intense practices, but also had some fun sparring about which Hunger Games' characters were the best with Marsden.

"This is really exciting to host the championship. We are ready to compete for the title and know it will be fun to have our fans behind us," said Marsden.

Tickets are still available for the meet by visiting the U.'s ticket office.

Pac-12 Championships

Saturday, Huntsman Center

First session, 2 p.m.

Second session, 7 p.m.

*Utes are in the second sessionAggies to host WAC championship

Utah State hosts the WAC gymnastics championship Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The league will crown a new champion as returning champion Boise State left the conference. The Aggies will start on bars and follow with beam, floor and vault before sitting through a bye during the final rotation. Southern Utah begins on vault, then has a bye before closing with bars, beam and floor.

Denver is the only nationally ranked team in the meet, at No. 18. It is the Pioneers' first WAC championship meet. Denver was not eligible for the regular-season title since it did not complete a WAC schedule in its first season in the league. San Jose State won the regular-season title.

Sacramento State will also compete.

— Melissa Yack

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