Red Rocks crowned Pac-12 champs

S-Gym Colby Patterson
Utah Red Rocks pose for a photo after winning the Pac-12 championships. Photo courtesy of Kory Mortensen.

Utah Red Rocks pose for a photo after winning the Pac-12 championships. Photo courtesy of Kory Mortensen.

After a disappointing finish at last year’s Pac-12 Championships, the No. 5 Red Rocks took home the conference title in convincing fashion Saturday, scoring a 197.925. Second place Stanford finished well back of Utah with a 197.175.

“It feels good,” said co-head coach Greg Marsden. “We don’t want to take anything for granted, but I couldn’t feel better about our performance today or about the job the athletes did. They really came together today and we were strong from beginning to end.”

Since the Red Rocks had the No. 1 seed for the day, they started their session on vault, an event that has treated them well all season long. Despite two scores of 9.775 to start off the rotation, Utah finished strong, tallying a score of 49.400. That was good enough for the Red Rocks to grab the early lead, but it was below their season average and the Cardinal, along with the UCLA Bruins, were well within striking distance.

As Utah moved to bars, Marsden’s bunch had the mindset that it wanted to make up a few tenths and build its lead. Co-captain Hailee Hansen helped that cause in the middle of the rotation when she posted a 9.900, tying her career high. The Red Rocks registered no score lower than that on the rest of the rotation, and Georgia Dabritz capped things off with a perfect 10, her second perfect score in three weeks.

“I didn’t feel any pressure,” she said. “I know I had five great scores before me so I just had to go out and do what I normally do every day in practice. It felt great to receive a 10.”

Leading up to the championships, co-head coach Megan Marsden said she was anxious to see what her team’s mental approach would be on beam at such a big event. Although Utah’s score was not as high as last week’s season-best beam performance, its 49.275 was respectable. Most importantly, all six gymnasts in the lineup hit their routines.

“It feels great, because that’s what we’ve challenged them to do all season long,” Greg Marsden said. “We wanted to make this event as good as the other three and we are right there, very close.”

With Stanford producing big scores on bars, the Red Rocks needed to stay on top of their game during the last rotation to solidify themselves as the top finisher of the championships’ first session. Luckily for them, their last event was floor, where they lead the nation. Utah went through its lineup without error, finishing with a score of 49.650.

Though the Red Rocks were confident their score would win the title, they had to wait until the evening session was over to be sure. None of the four teams in that group came close, and Utah became the first team from the U to win a Pac-12 championship.

“Although I would love for every Utah team to win, I must say that I’m pretty excited that gymnastics is the first,” Marsden said.

Winning the conference crown was a great step for the Red Rocks, but this was just the first of three postseason legs. On Monday, Utah will find out where it will be headed for regionals on Apr. 5.

“We are going to celebrate this weekend and find out where we go and then get back to work,” Marsden said. “[Regionals] is a week and a half away and there are always things to improve on. We want to make sure that we get back to business and put ourselves in a good place going into regionals.”

g.adams@chronicle.utah.edu