Red Rocks aim to hold 2-seed

Published: Friday, March 24 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

Utah is the only top 10 team in women's gymnastics to have a home meet this weekend. All other top 10 teams are at conference championships, which count as road meets in the Regional Qualifying Score formula.

For that reason, coach Greg Marsden isn't overly optimistic that his team, even if it posts a seriously high score tonight when No. 23 BYU visits the Huntsman Center, can remain No. 2 going into the postseason.

"We could be anywhere from two to five after this weekend. I think it's fairly reasonable that we could drop," he said.

High road scores are generally more helpful in raising a team's RQS because they're harder to come by.

Utah can go no lower than fifth, though, meaning it would be the top-seeded team in whichever of the six NCAA regionals it is sent to on April 7 or 8. It will find that out on Monday.

That means the Utes can concentrate tonight, Senior Night, just trying to fine tune with some upgrades planned and a really clean meet still an elusive goal.

"We've just got to be sharper. I really think it's as simple as that," said Marsden, thinking of Utah's two losses, at home March 6 by .025 to No. 1 Georgia and last Friday at No. 3 Florida by .075 point despite its best road score (196.675) of 2006.

Utah didn't count a fall at Florida — a first this season on the road — but it lost tenths when two top performers made mistakes.

BYU, meanwhile, comes into the Huntsman Center — where the Utes are hoping for a crowd of 13,850 or more to retain the national attendance championship over Alabama — needing a big score and maybe some help to ensure making the postseason.

The Cougars are on the bubble, the sixth team in the North Central Region, with No. 25 Southern Utah still nipping at their heels for the last berth.

Two teams advance from each regional to the 2006 NCAA Championships at Oregon State April 20-22.

"Utah isn't our main concern this week. We've got to fight for a spot at regionals. We need to hit our routines and score well," said Cougar coach Brad Cattermole, adding, "The girls should be mentally and physically ready to go."

The Cougars had their highest score of the season (195.425) in beating SUU in Provo on March 15. That included a season-best 49.225 team score on floor, thanks to four career-bests by individuals. But they scored 193.725 with bars and floor falls at Texas Woman's University last Saturday.

Utah's Marsden has some concerns.

Five seniors must control their emotions in front of family or former coaches who've traveled from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, German, Hungary and South Africa to see their final home meets.

Marsden needs to see strong meets from role players on bars and beam, where injuries have left the Utes thin. And his two freshmen are adding upgrades this week, Nina Kim on floor and Kristina Baskett on vault. Also, junior Nicolle Ford will again attempt her floor upgrades, despite falling last week. Ford was worried he wouldn't let her try again, but he will see how it goes tonight.


E-mail: lham@desnews.com

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