(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Year in and year out the Pac-12 has proven to be one of the leading conferences in NCAA women’s gymnastics, and this year proves to be no different. Currently, six out of the eight Pac-12 teams are ranked in the NCAA Top 25. That’s second only to the SEC, which has seven of its eight teams ranked.
Statistically speaking, the top two teams in the Pac-12 are UCLA and Utah. Both teams have been in the top 10 national rankings all season long. It is also worth mentioning that both teams are lead by former United States Olympic team members. UCLA is currently home to 2016 Olympic gold and silver medalist Madison Kocian and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Kyla Ross, while Utah has 2016 Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner.
NCAA gymnastics uses a ranking system called regional qualifying score, or RQS, after teams have competed in at least six meets. The RQS is calculated by taking the team’s top three road scores, then taking the next three highest overall scores, then dropping the highest score of those six and averaging the remaining five.
The UCLA Bruins are currently fourth in the national rankings. The Bruins (7-2, 4-1 Pac-12) have a RQS of 197.305. Kocian leads the team in the all-around with an average score of 39.418, good for No. 4 in the nation. Ross currently hold the No. 1 spot on the uneven bars with an average score of 9.878. Ross has earned three perfect 10s this season – two on bars and one on beam. UCLA as a team is second in the nation on the uneven bars and third on the balance beam.
The Utah Red Rocks sit in the fifth spot in the national rankings with an RQS of 197.180. The Red Rocks hold a 7-1 record and are 4-1 in conference competition. Skinner is currently second in the national all-around rankings with an average total of 39.616. Skinner is also tied for fourth place of the floor exercise, thanks in part to her signature “double-double” skill. A double-double is a floor pass that requires gymnasts to perform two back flips with two twists. It is considered the most difficult tumbling pass in college gymnastics, and Skinner is the only gymnast to perform it.
Oregon State gymnastics currently holds the No. 9 spot in the national rankings. The Beavers (7-2, 3-2 Pac-12) have an RQS of 196.635. OSU handed Utah its only loss of the season, beating the Red Rocks by just 0.025. Senior Kaytianna McMillan came in clutch for the Beavers as she scored a 9.925 on her floor routine to put the team ahead and secure the victory over the Utes. McMillan sits in seventh place in the national all-around rankings.
No. 17 in the NCAA top 25 is the University of Washington. Washington (5-7, 2-3 Pac-12) has an RQS of 196.130. Junior Hailey Burleson leads the Huskies, coming in at No. 12 in the all-around rankings. Washington has proven to be a winner against the Arizona schools with Pac-12 wins over both Arizona and ASU.
California is currently in the No. 19 spot in the NCAA rankings. The Golden Bears (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) have an RQS of 196.000. Cal has notable wins over No. 9 Oregon State as well as No. 17 Washington. Senior Emily Richardson has been a major contributor to Cal’s victories as well as junior Toni-Ann Williams, but Williams has been out for the past four weeks with an injury.
Arizona holds the No. 23 spot in this week’s national rankings. The Wildcats have a 4-4 overall record and are 1-4 in Pac-12 competition with a 195.680 RQS. Arizona’s only conference victory was over the Cal Bears. The Wildcats are tied for 11th in the nation on bars. Although Arizona only has a .500 record, the Wildcats post consistent scores each week.
Stanford is one of two teams in the Pac-12 that is not ranked in the NCAA top 25. The Cardinal (4-4, 3-3 Pac-12) have an RQS of 195.185. Despite not being ranked, Stanford has wins over both ranked Arizona and Washington. Stanford is led by junior Elizabeth Price, who was on track to an amazing season based on prior year’s scores, but an injury has caused limited contributions to the lineup. Price was limited to just uneven bars competition in the meet against Arizona State, but she made her way back into the floor lineup as well in the meet against Oregon State.
Rounding out the Pac-12 is Arizona State. The Gym Devils are not ranked, and they have a 2-8 record and remain winless (0-5) in Pac-12 competition with an RQS of 194.290. The Gym Devils have shown improvement week by week, thanks in part to junior transfer Nichelle Christopherson. Christopherson has been the go-to all-around competitor for ASU in most meets. ASU does not have any conference wins, but the Gym Devils show promise with a young roster and a new coaching staff.
ASU hit a slight setback this past week, ending its trend of weekly team score improvements. In the meet against No. 5 Utah, ASU received unusually low scores on floor, and the Sun Devils had multiple misses on bars. Despite the setback on two events, ASU earned its highest score on vault all season.
ASU gymnastics still has one Pac-12 competition left against in-state rival Arizona next week in Tucson. The meet will be a good indicator of how the Gym Devils will hold up in the Pac-12 Championships.
This weekend, Washington will take on No. 9 Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore. while Stanford travels to Salt Lake City for a meet against No. 5 Utah. Rounding out the weekend will be a battle in Berkely as No. 4 UCLA faces No. 19 California.
With the Pac-12 Championships in Palo Alto, Calif. less than three weeks away, the fight for the top conference honor will no doubt be between UCLA and Utah. In their dual meet earlier this season, Utah edged out UCLA 197.875-197.500. The two have flip-flopped in the rankings all season long.
With as tough as the competition is, you can be sure that you’ll see a few Pac-12 teams in the national championships in April.