Pac-12 Women's Gymnastics Championships: Utah Utes Seek To Defend Title

Rhett Wilkinson

Gymnasts for the University of Utah are greedy about wanting the Pac-12 Championship.

Then again, as the Salt Lake Tribune reported, they've won three of the last four.

"We'd like to have it stay in Salt Lake," senior Maddy Stover told the Tribune.

The Utes' effort to hold onto the conference title, which it also won last year, ensues Saturday in Tucson, where the championships are taking place, according to the Pac-12 website.

Utah, which is ranked fourth in the country, is the second seed behind UCLA. But the Utes like their shot of being champions again because they won a match against the Bruins this year and also ended play before the championships by beating a tough Georgia squad with a season-high of 198.15.

"We are in the best position possible to succeed," junior MaKenna Merrell-Giles told the Tribune. "We are on a high right now, and we want to keep that rolling."

But Utah's moxie isn't there as much to the extent that it has big heads. The Utes were surprisingly beaten by Cal just a handful of weeks back and the 10th-ranked Bears and No. 8 Washington also are competing Saturday night. Arizona State, Arizona, Oregon State, and Stanford faced off before that Saturday.

"We know we can't let our guard down," senior Tiffani Lewis told the Tribune. "We know that staying at the top is the hardest part."

Both Stover and Lewis remarked that Utah must have the vision that the playoff is merely an additional competition. But Utah admitted they understand this is not a normal meet because, of course, taking the Pac-12 title wouldn't just provide pride, but also lift the Utes closer to their objective of being in the run for the NCAA championship.

Utah was down that it placed fifth at the national competition last season and has been inspired by that this year, according to the Tribune.

There's a change in the Utes with the championships having arrived, junior Kari Lee told the Tribune.

"We are so ready," she told the newspaper. "There is something different about this team. We have this edge, and I know we aren't quite done yet. A lot came together for us against Georgia. We hit 24 for 24 and got the big scores, so I know we are ready."

Utah probably requires a similar display to when they were opposite Georgia to take the championship again. Similar to the Utes, the Bruins completed the regular season with top outings, putting out 198-plus performances in two of its final four performances. They posted a 198.275 to conclude the regular season.

Additionally, Washington and Cal also have gotten better and are perhaps dark horse contenders, according to the Tribune.

"Everyone brings it to this meet, that is what is so cool," Lee told the newspaper. "You never want to underestimate a team."

Utah coach Megan Marsden remarked that she is glad to see the direction her squad is taking, not only physically but also mentally, heading into the playoff.

"They've put in a lot of hard work and we have several people stepping up, and that is exciting," she told the newspaper. "There is a lot of confidence in this team. They've been waiting since nationals last year to get ready for the postseason, and here it is. I'm excited to see what they can do."