Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Utah's Hailee Hansen reacts after performing on the bars as Utah, BYU, SUU and Boise State compete Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 in the Huntsman Center.
BERKELEY, Calif. — The Pac-12 gymnastics championship will be decided Saturday at Cal. Utah enters the meet ranked No. 5 nationally and is the conference's top seed. UCLA is the next highest-ranked team at No. 7, while No. 10 Stanford and No. 11 Oregon State round out the first session’s competitors.
The first session begins at 2 p.m. MDT. The second session features No. 19 California, No. 21 Arizona, No. 22 Arizona State and Washington and begins at 7:30 p.m.
Being the No. 1 seed has its advantages as the top seed gets to follow the traditional meet format of vault, bars, beam and floor.
“It’s a good order because you typically go into a meet like this amped up,” said Utah co-head coach Greg Marsden. “That energy really works for you on vault. Then you can calm down for bars and beam, and get that energy back up for floor, which is arguably our best event.”
Marsden’s team leads the country on floor, but its vault isn’t far behind at No. 2. Utah is fifth on the uneven bars and is tied for 15th on beam. Utah struggled in the beam event in its first two trips to the Pac-12 meet but is fresh off a season-best 49.5 score in the event.
Although the meet is conducive to a lot of energy, only one competitor will go at a time rather than four gymnasts going at once. That creates more lag time in between events, but Marsden isn't worried about the format.
Also contributing to the lag time is that both sessions will be featured on the Pac-12 Networks. Marsden isn’t happy about the higher-ranked session being earlier in the day as he believes it should be showcased during prime-time hours since the winner is most likely to come from the group.
"We can't make any mistakes in this meet," said Marsden. "There are too many good teams competing. We have to give ourselves a chance to win after those first three events, and then go win it on floor."
Utah’s Tory Wilson leads the field with a 39.445 all-around ranking. Wilson and teammate Kailah Delaney lead the country on vault, as does Georgia Dabrtiz on the bars. All three could earn individual titles, which hasn't happened for Utah since 2012 when Corrie Lothrop won the all-around and Georgia Dabrtiz won bars.
Earlier this season, Utah defeated UCLA in a dual meet but recently lost to the Bruins in a tri-meet. The Red Rocks lost at Stanford, but defeated Oregon State at home.
MOUNTAIN RIM GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIP SET TO BE DECIDED: The inaugural Mountain Rim gymnastics championship begins at 1 p.m. Saturday in Provo. The meet features host and 25th-ranked Brigham Young, No. 17 Boise State, No. 20 Denver, Southern Utah and Utah State.
The meet will run like an NCAA regional, where all four events take place simultaneously. While this format is at times chaotic, BYU coach Brad Cattermole said the Cougars have a new scoring system that will keep fans instantly updated with individual and team scores.
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Brigham Young is led by all-arounders Makenzie Johnson and Raquel Willman Hatch, and Kaycee Gassaway. BYU’s best events are vault and floor.
Alyssa Click leads Southern Utah on bars and is one of its best on the beam, which ranks as the school's best event. Ana Jaworski leads the Thunderbirds on beam.
First-year coach Nadalie Walsh has Utah State back on the winning track. The Aggies are led by all-arounder Sarah Landes, Paige Jones and Bailey McIntire.
All five MRGC teams have clinched spots in the NCAA regional after finishing in the top 36 in the regional qualifying scoring.