Balance beam isn't exactly the place most gymnastics teams want to start a competition, since premeet nerves don't mix well with the event that needs the most concentration.
But University of Utah coach Greg Marsden is pleased that Sunday's blind draw by the NCAA put the Utes in the Thursday afternoon preliminary session.
That's because, if a team finishes in the top three out of the six in its session and advances to the Friday-night Super Six team championships, it's had more rest and a more normal evening than teams in the night session.
"In this day and age, either session is going to be tough to get out of," said Marsden, "but if we do our thing, we'll be fine. If not, the field is just too deep any more to expect to move on."
The 2006 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships are April 20-22 at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
Utah qualified for nationals at Saturday's Northeast Regional at Michigan, finishing second to the host team, 196.00-195.70.
On Sunday, the NCAA released results of its draws for the Thursday team prelims, and the Utes will start on beam at the 2 p.m. MDT session. They'll then have a bye, followed by floor, vault, bye and bars.
Three regional winners and three runners-up are in each session. Four teams that made the 2005 Super Six are in the afternoon session, including the Utes, who were third a year ago. Also in Utah's session are Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU, Michigan and Nebraska.
In the evening session are defending champion Georgia, host Oregon State and Arkansas, Arizona State, Florida and Iowa State.
Florida and Arkansas, a first-time nationals qualifier, beat out usual suspect UCLA to advance, and the Bruins stay home. They and Georgia were the only two teams to have made every Super Six finals since that format was adopted in 1993, the last time nationals were at OSU. It's the first time the Bruins haven't made nationals since 1991.
Marsden noted the irony that Florida, coached by former UCLA gymnast Rhonda Faehn, who was coached by Bruins' coach Valorie Kondos-Field, and Arkansas, coached by Mark Cook, a former UCLA/Kondos-Field assistant, were the teams that denied their former mentor.
The other surprise is that OSU beat out Stanford, which hosted the West Regional, for a berth in its own nationals.
Utah has made the nationals field for its entire 31-year history, the only team to have made it every year.Marsden said the Utes were tired Sunday they left their Ann Arbor, Mich., hotel at 5 a.m. only to have their flight delayed 1 1/2 hours but they didn't seem to have any concerning injuries. Ashley Postell's knee, twisted in a landing from bars, was better, he said.
2006 NCAA women's gymnastics championship
Results of Sunday's draw for team preliminaries sessions (with region, score)
Afternoon session: Alabama (West, 196.475), Oklahoma (Central, 196.375), LSU (Central, 195.825), Michigan (Northeast, 196.00), Nebraska (Southeast, 196.35), Utah (Northeast, 195.70).Evening session: Georgia (Southeast, 197.425), Oregon State (West, 195.80), Arkansas (South Central, 195.40), Arizona State (North Central, 196.675), Florida (South Central, 196.375), Iowa State (North Central, 195.725).