Sunday, March 22, 2015

Utah Gymnastics: Pac-12 Champions


Utah dominated the field last night (UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State also competed in the evening session) to win its second consecutive Pac-12 Championship, but not without some late drama of the sort you never want to see.  On a night when the men’s basketball team earned a spot in the Sweet-16, and the gymnastics team continued its climb to the top in front of another record crowd, it was heartbreaking that one of its senior stars suffered a career ending injury.  It happened late, and emotions that already were high took a sudden, unexpected and rather intense turn.   But the remaining seniors showed their poise by stepping up and closing out the meet with a bang.  It was a bittersweet night.

Here are some photos, and anyone who has viewed my previous gymnastics posts will notice that a few things are different.  First, given the four-team format of the meet, photographers did not have floor access and were limited to the first two rows of seats in a limited number of sections in the arena.  Moving from section to section was a major undertaking (lots of stairs, had to carry all equipment, etc.) but necessary for shooting from what I deemed the best vantage points for each event.  Second, the position I chose for shooting bars offered me a new and interesting vantage point and the opportunity to try my camera's 'Zone AF' option; I thought it worked pretty well.... So here we go.  As always, click on the image to see a larger version, and let me know (comment) if you've been here!

 
Utah had the favored rotation, starting on vault then moving to bars, beam and floor.  Not sure if that was a function of hosting the meet or the result of some kind of lottery.  Either way, it seemed like an advantage and things got off to a great start with vault.


 
The highlight came in the form of a perfect score from Tory Wilson.







On to bars with a fairly substantial lead.  Nothing that happened here was going to get in the way of that.









 

Having increased their lead over the pack in the second rotation, Utah moved to beam, and I can’t imagine I was alone in thinking this would be the event that would tell the tale.  Walk away from beam with any kind of lead at all and bring it on home on floor.  







 
The Red Rocks were firing on all cylinders and if I’m not mistaken they earned their second-highest beam score of the season.  At any rate, they moved to their last rotation with a significant lead.  And here's where it got interesting, in a way no one wanted to see.  The first two routines went well.




Tory was third in the rotation and of course anticipation was high, just as are Tory's usual tumbling passes.  




Unfortunately, something went wrong during Tory's first tumbling pass and, as I understand it, she suffered an Achilles injury upon takeoff.  She landed hard and obviously was injured.  In retrospect, it's a wonder she managed the landing she did.


I think it's fair to say the arena deflated and for the athletes, all the emotion that was building toward their seemingly eminent victory now turned to shock and sorrow, and grief.  Three routines still to go and suddenly it was necessary for the three remaining seniors to pull themselves together and bring home the championship.  Amazingly but not surprisingly, that is exactly what they did, scoring in succession a 9.90, 9.95 and 9.925, and each showing upon completion of their routines what they'd had to suppress to get there.  These are incredibly strong, talented, proud and remarkable young women.












Greg and Megan were honored as Pac-12 co-head coaches of the year, and several of Utah's gymnasts earned individual awards.  Then of course there was the whole shebang in the form of Utah's second consecutive Pac-12 Championship.  Congratulations Red Rocks!  And I know I join thousands of fans in wishing Tory a full and speedy recovery.  She will be missed.






10 comments:

  1. Your hustling to get position paid off Russ. Excellent set that provides a detailed coverage of the event. Being relegated to the first two rows did not hamper the quality of the output what so ever. Great work my friend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Matt, thanks buddy! It was an active night, but the meet was run so that only one athlete competed at a time. Made for a long night, but shooting only one team, I had frequent, short periods of "down time" throughout.

      Delete
  2. Russ - Another really nice post and set of images. I think your vantage point and zone AF really worked out well for the bars. I especially like CoLo in #13 (or 16 remarkable how similar those look) and Georgia in #19. I was very interested to see your images from floor being I am familiar with that general location. They worked out well. I particularly like Georgia in #42. Timing is really spot on. I certainly wish Tory the best in her recovery. She will definitely be missed at regionals and nationals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ivo. Posting both those very similar photos of CoLo was a bit of an oversight on my part. :) Yeah, that perspective on beam was great once I figured out how I could make it work. As you know, I usually situate myself so that the action is pretty much straight ahead, moving either toward or away from me. The switch to a more side-to-side angle was intimidating at first, but being that close was great, and overall I'm happy with the outcome. I guess I had your usual angle on floor. Not a whole lot different from being on the floor, though there were more human obstacles! I agree with you--Tory will be missed. Thanks again for your feedback. Hard to believe another home season is in the books.

      Delete
  3. You've captured some amazing moments, Russ. The shots of the seniors after their last performance at home brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for the pictorial recap of a great meet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Deborah. It was an emotional night, for reasons none of us could have anticipated. So much so that I almost completely forgot about the seniors performing at home for the last time. Hope you're doing well!

      Delete
  4. Would you be willing to share your settings? I will be shooting my daughters club gymnastics state meet this weekend.

    Trace

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Trace: I'm not sure how helpful they will be to you in a completely different environment. My ISO ranged from 2000 - 5000, my shutter speed ranged from 1/800 to 1/1600, and my aperture ranged from 2.8 to 3.2, all depending on the specific location I was shooting from within the arena. I was in manual mode throughout.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you. I have been out of shooting for a couple of years and just purchased a D4S to get back into a hobby that I missed.

    ReplyDelete