Oregon State Jade Carey beats Utah to share Pac-12 gymnastics title in front of first-ever sold-out home crowd

Oregon State fans numbered 8,859 Saturday at the Gill Coliseum, the first sold-out gym in school history.

The Beavers then delivered, beating Utah for the first time since 2017 to earn a share of the Pac-12 regular season championship.

In what is becoming one of OSU’s best gymnastics seasons, the Beavers scored 197.950 to easily defeat the Utes, who had 197.700. It was Oregon State’s second-highest score of the season, behind the school’s first-ever 198 at Stanford.

The energetic crowd, in attendance to see sophomore Jade Carey, four OSU gymnasts in their final home meet on senior day and the conference’s best program in Utah, did not miss of moments.

OSU took the lead after bars, the second of four events, and never looked back. Victory over Utah meant a share of the conference title along with the Utes, Arizona State and California. This is Oregon State’s second consecutive shared Pac-12 title.

Carey took first place – either split or alone – in every event. She teased perfect 10s on balance beam and floor, scoring 9.975 in each. Carey posted an overall score of 39.825, just off his season high of 39.875.

“Everything that happened today was so cool,” Carey said. “To see all the love and support we’re getting, and beat Utah…that’s something we’re really working toward.”

Most of the crowd stayed to cheer on seniors Maddie Dagan, Kayla Bird, Jenna Domingo and Kristina Peterson. Some must have wondered if they had seen Carey’s last at the Gill Coliseum.

An Olympic gold medalist in floor exercise, Carey plans to fulfill her four years at OSU. But it’s tricky. Next year is an Olympic year and Carey will be a star competitor on Team USA. Who knows what will happen if the 2024 Olympics produce a bounty for Carey.

“I’m pretty confident that I’m at least going to be here,” Carey said. “What it looks like will probably be a little different from the last two years. We’ll just take it day by day and see what happens.

There weren’t even any guarantees this year. Carey had obligations to Team USA, and it was unclear how often she would be available to the Beavers this season. Turns out Carey has done every dance in OSU.

“We were just taking it day by day and if I’m feeling good, we’re thinking, why not?” Carey said. “I’m quite stubborn and quite competitive. I knew I was going to push to do it.

Oregon State is heading to the playoffs in style. Two of the Beavers’ last three meetings have produced the highest team scores in school history. Carey has the highest score in the nation this season. There are several OSU gymnasts in each event capable of scoring 9.90 or better.

Next week, OSU travels to Utah for the Pac-12 meet, which they will try to win for the first time since 2013. At the end of March, the regionals arrive, and if they finish in the top two , a national team appearance in Fort Worth in April. Carey is on track to compete in a national all-around championship.

A year ago, the Beavers were short of national championships, finishing third in conference and regional competitions. Carey finished fourth all-around at the NCAA in 2022.

Carey said this year’s team is stronger than a year ago, in part because of a poor performance on the first day of regionals last year.

“I think what happened to us last year on the first day of regionals really motivated us and made us want to come back even stronger,” Carey said.

Carey said his biggest improvement this year came not from the mat or the equipment, but from learning the college routine. Gymnastics is a very individual sport, and that’s how Carey lived it for most of her 22 years.

“I’m learning to be a better teammate every day and a better leader,” Carey said. “It’s really nice to have so much love, support and guidance. Lots of life lessons.”

It’s impossible to compare an Olympic gold medal to anything for a gymnast, but Carey’s pursuit of an NCAA all-around championship has significant significance. She will have to beat other Olympic and US team members to win the all-around.

“I feel like I worked so hard on the whole thing and perfected all of these routines. This event would be really special,” Carey said.

— Nick Daschel reported from Corvallis.

ndaschel@oregonian.com | @nickdaschel

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