Red Rocks roar as Utah wins, Cal claims 2nd at Pac-12 championships

Photo of Cal women's gymnastics
Theo Wyss-Flamm/Senior Staff
Sophomore Andi Li performs on floor. Cal posted a season-high away score to take second place at the 2022 Pac-12 championships.

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Inexorable excitement and vibrancy poured from stands, which — though speckled with colors from across the Pac-12 — gleamed bright red and white in the name of Red Rock pride. The hometown Utah fans were undeniable in the Maverik Center on Saturday night — as was their team.

This 2022 championship showing was the moment gymnastics fans had been waiting for, and the No. 4 Utes delivered, winning the crown handily with a score of 198. No. 9 Cal’s 197.425 was a distant second, but the Bears’ fourth-best score and best away score of the season was enough to push them up one spot in the national rankings and secure a bid to the NCAA regionals in Oklahoma.

“Tonight is obviously a really big step in the right direction for us,” said senior Milan Clausi, who posted a 9.9 on beam. “We’ve been waiting for the right moment to peak, and we’re hitting that, so going forward, it’s really only up from here.”

Utah also took home the individual bars, beam and vault titles outright, and Red Rock freshman Grace McCallum shared the floor win with her U.S. Olympic teammate Jade Carey, who won gold in the event in Tokyo last year. Oregon State phenom Carey, the Pac-12 Freshman and Gymnast of the Year, met high expectations and posted a 39.725 to win the all-around.

Oregon State ended the night in third with a 197.25, and UCLA’s afternoon-session 196.95 earned the Bruins fourth place. Despite Arizona State’s 196.675, its fifth-place finish was just enough to clinch a seeded spot in the NCAA regional.

Freshman Maddie Williams and sophomore Andi Li led Cal out of the gate with matching 9.925s on bars — which landed them in a four-way tie for second on the event. Near the end of the first rotation, the Bears had a slight lead, but Carey scored her first 9.95 of the night on beam to put the Beavers on top.

After Utah’s slow start — it ended the first rotation in third — McCallum was the Utes’ saving grace. Her bars performance earned not only electric cheers and applause from the whole arena but also her second career perfect 10 to clinch the individual conference title.

Photo of Cal women's gymnastics

Sophomore Andi Li performs on the beam at the 2022 Pac-12 championships. She scored a 9.875.

From there, the Red Rocks never looked back. Utah’s scores of 49.525 or better on every event except vault meant the Bears were fighting Oregon State for second. But Cal showed its depth and resilience. Tied with the Beavers halfway through the meet, the Bears pulled away on floor and stayed there despite ending the night on vault — typically their weakest event.

Fifth-year senior Nina Schank, who had previously appeared in every meet this season, rolled her ankle Friday and did not compete Saturday, leaving holes in Cal’s lineup. But the rest of the team showed up.

“We step up when there’s adjustments, and we adapt really well,” said senior Grace Quinn, whose 9.925 on floor tied for the second-best score on the event. “We know what we’re doing, we know what our task is and that never changes. That’s what our team is about.”

Photo of Cal women's gymnastics

Freshman Mya Lauzon flies on bars. She posted a 9.85 in the Bears’ first rotation and anchored the beam lineup with a 9.9 at the Pac-12 championships.

Utah cemented its conference win ending the meet on floor. Pac-12 Specialist of the Year Maile O’Keefe and fifth-year Sydney Soloski followed McCallum’s event-winning 9.95 with matching 9.925s to bring the Red Rocks to the 198 mark for the third time this year.

“Over the last few weeks, we have dealt with a few little injuries and things here and there,” said Cal co-head coach Justin Howell. “For them to perform the way they did, under these kinds of circumstances — with a crazy amount of energy and fan support and a lot of pressure — I couldn’t be more proud.”

Jocelyn Huang covers women’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter @jocelynxhuang. Mia Wachtel covers women’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected].