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With viral moments and national ambitions, the 2021 Pac-12 Women’s Gymnastics season begins

Jan 27, 2021
Jesus Ramirez/UCLA Athletics

Pac-12 women's gymnastics got under way in earnest last weekend with three Conference matchups, beginning a season where multiple programs will aim for the highest possible goals in a year that will look unlike any in living memory.

UCLA gymnastics, ranked second in the Pac-12 and 11th in the nation, opened its season by defeating No. 15 Arizona State 196.150-195.950. The contest came down to the final routine, where viral sensation Nia Dennis scored a 9.950 on her floor exercise. Like last year, Dennis used her routine to showcase music from black artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, Missy Elliot and Tupac Shakur. 

Dennis’ routine has already been viewed over nine million times across social media with shoutouts from Missy Elliot, Simone Biles, Karamo Brown, Michelle Obama and more. 

But the Bruins are hardly the only Pac-12 program looking to make noise this season. After opening their season at 3-1 against non-conference opponents and sitting at No. 4 nationally, the Utah Red Rocks defeated No. 15 Arizona 197.075-195.650 to start their conference competition. 

Already the top team in the Pac-12, Utah women’s gymnastics has its sights set on being one of the best programs in the country.

“We want to be at nationals and be in the final four this year, that's our big goal,” said Utah captain Alexia Burch in a recent interview with the Pac-12 Network. 

Two other Pac-12 teams got their seasons under way on Saturday, as Oregon State defeated Washington 194.925 to 192.875. 

The remaining Pac-12 programs, Cal and Stanford, will start their seasons on January 30th and February 15th respectively

Of course, the 2021 gymnastics season will look unlike any that came before it. From masking up immediately after routines, to regular PCR testing, to holding pre-match meetings over Zoom, precautions have been put in place to keep student-athletes and staff as safe as possible. 

Pac-12 programs are proud to boast some of the most rabid fan bases in the sport. Utah for example, regularly enjoys packed houses for their competitions. But this year, only cardboard cutouts get to witness their performances. 

But, as Alexia Burch pointed out, “we know our fans are watching us on the Pac-12 Network.”