Bleeding Red: Utes building dynasties on the Hill

Utah’s skiers got the ultimate thrill
Proving again they are king of the hill
The Red Rocks won a title of their own
En route to another national throne

COMMENTARY – The Pac-12 is the self-proclaimed “Conference of Champions.” Utah definitely belongs in that elite circle. The most recent national championship for the conference (No. 494) is the 2017 NCAA skiing title won by the Utes. The Red Rocks are also in the thick of the chase for yet another national gymnastics title.

utesThe Utah ski team completed a four-day competition on March 11, with a come-from-behind victory on the last day. The win represents the Utes’ 11th NCAA ski title, along with an AIAW title back in 1978. Utah’s skiing titles rank third all-time behind Denver and Colorado.

“I am stunned with the win today,” exclaimed Utah Director of Skiing Kevin Sweeney after the competition was over. “In all my years of coaching, it was one of the most challenging four days of competition. It took a lot of perseverance and gutsy performances for us to win.

“I want to credit the staff for an awesome job. We had a great start to the championships and felt fantastic, then struggled a little bit and it can be very dangerous when you feel vulnerable, in confidence and motivation. [Our coaches] all did a tremendous job keeping the athletes focused and the environment fun, and helping me stay relaxed. It’s awesome to be able to take this new trophy back to our new ski building.”

The Red Rocks just won their third Pac-12 gymnastics title in the last four years with a season high 197.925. MyKayla Skinner also won the all-around with a score of 39.725, and Baely Rowe placed second with a 39.575. Skinner also won the floor with her second perfect 10.0 in her last three meets, and tied with Tiffani Lewis for the vault title.

“We’ve worked so hard,” said Skinner. “We got off to an amazing start on the bars and just took off from there. Wining the Pac-12 Championship is a dream come true.”

Utah’s Red Rocks won the 2017 Pac-12 Championship | Photo by Deena Lofgren, Utah Athletics

“We are so proud of these kids,” said Tom Farden. “Our demeanor all week in practice has been calm, aggressive and determined. We knew this would be a meet of inches, and we responded on every event with landings that were spot on. The kids were confident, relaxed and built off each other’s routines. This is a group of fighters. MyKayla Skinner is by far the best gymnast in the Pac-12 and I’m proud she proved it again by winning the all-around here.”

Amazingly, Skinner was snubbed for both the Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, awards even though she was undefeated in the all-around in Pac-12 competition, has won 34 titles this season, holds the single season record for most Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week honors with seven (with the next closest being only four), and is tied for the single season record for Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors with six.

Apparently, politics and favoritism in sports is not limited to just figure skating. Skinner shook off the snub with grace and maturity beyond her young age. “It’s OK. What matters is the team title and we won it!” she exclaimed with joy.

Next up for the Red Rocks is regionals, with the selection announcement on Monday at 2 p.m. (with Utah likely getting the top seed at the regional in Seattle at the University of Washington on April 1.

After that, it will be the chase for Utah’s 11th national title (10 NCAA titles and one AIAW title) in St. Louis on April 14-16.

Here’s hoping the Red Rocks imitate the Energizer Bunny and just keep winning, and winning, and winning!

Bleeding Red is sports column written by Dwayne Vance. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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