Utah Utes gymnastics: Team looking for better performances on road

Meet with Washington tonight could replace season-low score

Published: Friday, Jan. 29 2010 1:21 a.m. MST

Now that Utah's gymnastics team has drifted back into customary territory — No. 3 in the national rankings, with Kyndal Robarts and Daria Bijak having scored 9.95s last week — the goals are to improve the little things and to carry their success to the road.

Utah (2-1) is at No. 24 Washington (0-3) today at 8 p.m. MST, wanting a good road score to replace the 195.125 it scored at UCLA in the season-opener. Road scores will be important once the ranking system shifts over from season average to Regional Qualifying Scores that eventually determine postseason placement.

The RQS is an average of six meet scores, three of which must be on the road.

"One thing we've got to do is replace that relatively low score on the road for our RQS. We only have five road meets, so we need to take advantage of every opportunity on the road that we have," said coach Greg Marsden, whose team travels for four of its next five meets.

While Bijak, Robarts, Jamie Deetscreek and Annie DiLuzio have been able to reach scores of 9.90 and better over the last two meets, the Utes have also had to include relatively low scores, in the 9.65-9.75 range, 11 times out of their last 40 scores that counted, and that needs to improve.

"Yes, it continues to be the little things," said co-coach Megan Marsden. "We have to continue to get better in those areas so that we can have some 9.85s and 9.90s, second and third person up, and not have to wait until the very back of the lineup to take care of that.

"If we're going to be 9.675, 9.725, 9.775, first three scorers, that's going to be trouble later on if we want to break out of the pack of a lot of teams that are scoring high 195s, low 196s."

She says the ability for those earlier performers is there.

"Oh, yes, absolutely," Megan Marsden said. "Those gymnasts early in the lineup are talented. It's a matter of addressing those things."

That's what practices were about this week — improving body shapes, straightening handstands on bars, sticking landings and working on mental tools.

"People are training well. It's that we've got a few that aren't doing their good training routines in a meet," said Megan Marsden. "They developed some new issues, which has to do with losing their mental control, losing their focus or concentration, or allowing negative thoughts to drift in as they're competing, which creates misses that we don't typically see in the gym."

As junior Gael Mackie gets as close to home as possible for a meet this week — she's from Vancouver, British Columbia — Greg Marsden is hoping to see some improvement. She has reached a 9.80 only once in nine routines this season, though she's had 9.825s to 9.925s in the past.

Last Friday against Georgia, he said Mackie did a bars routine that would have scored well had she held her landing.

"You watch on video, she really had it, she really landed right on top of it and then threw her head back so hard that she jumped back out of it, so she's got to show a little more control," he said. "We've got to work on those type of things. She did it on vault, too. She's got to hold on a little bit before she starts to celebrate.

"Gael can be better and will be better. I think I've seen a little bit of improvement, but there's still some things that she needs to work on that they're deducting for."

And that goes for many of the others, too. "I think they will eventually," Greg said.

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