BERKELEY, Calif.— The University of Utah is a champion in the Conference of Champions after the gymnasts won the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championship against a top-25 field. After winning the afternoon session at the Pac-12 Championships, the Utes had to wait more than five hours to be officially crowned as the school’s first Pac-12 champion. The win was worth the wait. Utah, the tournament’s top seed, blew away seeds No. 2-4 in the afternoon session, and the No. 5-8 seeds who followed never threatened.
The Utes tied the seventh-best score in school history with the 197.925 to beat Stanford (197.175), California (196.550), UCLA (196.525), Oregon State (196.275), Arizona (196.250), Arizona State (195.500) and Washington (195.125).
In addition to the school’s first Pac-12 team title, Utah came away with four of the five individual championships. Tory Wilson won the all-around with a 39.450 and Georgia Dabritz won all three events she competed—vault (9.95), bars (10.0) and floor (9.95)—tying for first on floor with Nansy Damianova. Wilson’s all-around title was the second for Utah in its three-year Pac-12 history (Corrie Lothrop won the all-around in 2012), while Dabritz is now a four-time Pac-10 champion with a 2012 uneven bar title to her credit as well. Damianova’s co-championship on floor was her first Pac-12 title.
In a clean sweep, Utah also captured the Pac-12’s biggest season awards. By vote of the conference coaches, Greg and Megan Marsden shared Coach of the Year, Tory Wilson was named Gymnast of the Year and Georgia Dabritz won Specialist of the Year. It marked the second “best in her class” award for Dabritz, who was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2012.
Shortly after finishing a dominating performance against three of the nation’s top 11 teams, an ecstatic Coach Greg Marsden said, “I know there’s another session, but if things go as planned, we’re going ring shopping!”
By the midway point of the second session, it was mathematically evident that Marsden could go ahead and schedule his shopping trip. “I can’t tell you how happy we are to win a Pac-12 Championship. With all of the great wins we’ve had over the years, this is as thrilling and important as any of them,” Marsden said, referring no doubt to Utah’s 10 national championships and eight runner-up finishes.
“I want all of our teams to win Pac-12 Championships, but we really wanted to be the first one. It (a championship) was in our grasp for the past two years and we let it slip away. This is especially rewarding to win like this,” said Marsden, whose team lost by five hundredths of a point to UCLA in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship in 2012 and blew a last-rotation lead last year to slip to third behind host Oregon State and UCLA.
This time, the Utes left nothing to chance, leading from start to finish and growing stronger as the meet went on. While none of the teams in the session had to count a fall on an event, nobody could catch a Ute team on fire.
The Utes won three of four events as a team as well, starting with their first event, where their final three vaults were a 9.90 from Kailah Delaney, a 9.925 from Wilson and a 9.95 from Dabritz. After one rotation, Stanford was hot on the Utes’ heels, scoring a 49.350 on the beam to Utah’s 49.400 on the vault. In third and fourth place were Oregon State (49.050 on floor) and UCLA (49.00 on bars).
The Utes erupted on their next event—the uneven bars—posting a season-best 49.60. Their score was just a tenth of a point off the school record of 49.70 set 21 years and three conferences ago at the 1993 Western Athletic Conference Championships. Dabritz led the way with a perfect 10.0—the second perfect score for the junior this season (the other was on floor at Michigan) and her second career 10.0 on bars. It is the second Pac-12 uneven bar championship for the nation’s top-ranked bar worker, who also won it as a freshman in 2012.
After Tory Wilson scored a 9.875 from the No. 2 post, Hailee Hansen tied her career high with a 9.90 on bars—a feat she first achieved at the 2012 Pac-12 Championships and her best score this season. Corrie Lothrop scored a 9.90 of her own next and Nansy Damianova swung to a 9.925 before Dabritz’s gem.
After two rotations, Utah had expanded its lead over the Cardinal to 99.00-98.325 heading into its most inconsistent event—the balance beam. On this championship day, though, Utah walked through a 49.275 set. Freshman Baely Rowe, competing on the conference’s biggest stage for the first time in her career, started the set with a 9.80. Her score would count in a team total highlighted by a 9.90 from Mary Beth Lofgren and Corrie Lothrop.
“We left no doubt who was the No. 1 team in the conference today,” said Marsden. “We looked like we could do this (win championships) all year long on three events and our challenge was the balance beam. We’re finally doing it there too.”
With only the floor left—where the Utes are ranked No. 1 in the nation—they held a comfortable 148.275-147.725 lead over second-place Stanford.
The final event resembled a victory lap for the Utes, who put any thoughts of a Stanford comeback out of reach, scoring a 49.650 while getting a 9.90 or better from five of their six starters. From the No. 2 post, Lia Del Priore scored a 9.925, followed by a 9.90 by Wilson, a 9.925 from Becky Tutka and 9.95s by Dabritz and Damianova.
Afterwards, Marsden reserved special thanks for his senior class of Damianova, Del Priore, Hansen and Lofgren. “I was really ready to get out of it (coaching) when this senior class came in and re-energized me. It’s been fun to go into the gym every day with gymnasts who want to work hard and be better.”
The Utes will have some time off before they get a chance to be even better. NCAA Regionals are on April 5 and the Utes will learn their destination on Monday.
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