Stephanie McAllister had such a "bizarre preseason" — in the words of Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden — that many athletes in her situation would not have been ready to compete yet, said co-coach Megan Marsden.
But the sophomore from Indianapolis — who endured a concussion, two kidney infections and an ankle sprain in preseason and who still has kidney stones — has competed in all four meets so far.
And she was even ready when unexpectedly called upon last Friday at Washington to go all-around for the first time in her career.
"The way it worked out wasn't like I expected, but I was happy that I got the chance to do everything," said McAllister, who was scheduled to do three events but learned she would be vaulting in place of senior Annie DiLuzio just prior to the timed warm-up.
"Greg said, 'You're in.'
"And I said, 'OK,' " she said.
The vaulting springboard at Washington was softer than those the Utes usually use, and with DiLuzio doing a difficult Yurchenko 1 1/2, "She just was freaked out a little bit, and it wasn't worth not having her in a good place (mentally) and getting her hurt when we had other people ready to go," said Marsden.
So, in the second event of the night, McAllister got the call and scored 9.75 with her first vault of the season.
"It was good," she said. "I'm glad that I got the opportunity, but I really wasn't expecting it. I was the alternate, and alternates, they're always supposed to be ready, but I wasn't expecting that."
In her first all-around, McAllister totaled 39.10.
"I was just pumped," she said. "It didn't make me tired. I just tried to do one thing at a time.
"I just had to think of one event at a time."
The experience should help her. "I have been kind of inconsistent this year, struggling with getting back into everything. It was definitely a confidence booster for me because I know that I can do it, it's just a mental thing."
McAllister said the preseason was frustrating "because I knew I wasn't doing everything to my full potential because there was always something (another setback), but I just kept making progress.
"But in Seattle, I just felt confident that I was ready for everything, so it just all worked out the way I wanted."
"I think she's doing an incredible job," said Megan Marsden. "I'm just really impressed that she's coming along as quickly as she is."
Megan Marsden said McAllister has been a joy to coach because she listens well, makes adjustments that are suggested, remembers them in the next practice and is able to then add further changes. "I feel like she cares, and she trusts we coaches, and I feel like she's listening and trying to absorb and address some of her weaknesses," Megan said.
BOARD GAMES: Utah used to carry its own vault board on trips but hasn't for a couple of years. Among other things, it costs $175 to fly it each way, said Greg Marsden, adding he could about buy a new board for that.
In Seattle, the board was soft, but no one diagnosed the problem until it was time to perform. Then, inserting an extra spring did the trick.
"We've got to use that open warm-up time more effectively to pick up things like that," Marsden said, about competing on the road.
Utah is at Arizona State Friday at 7:30 p.m. MT, and some of this week's practice time will be devoted to that sort of awareness and to making the Utes more ready to compete in an environment where they must manufacture their own excitement. Marsden said Utah was "flat" in its performance at Washington, a 195.85-194.65 victory.
RANKINGS: Utah fell to fourth in the rankings this week with a 195.956 average. The Utes rank No. 2 on balance beam behind Alabama with a 48.994 average.
Ute Daria Bijak is the highest all-arounder, ranked 14th at 39.15 with SUU's Elise Wheeler 16th (39.144) and Ute Kyndal Robarts 17th (39.133).4 comments on this story
Robarts ranks sixth on vault (9.881), and DiLuzio is tied for fourth on floor (9.894).
Women's Gymnastics Rankings
Team. . .Average. . .High score
1. Alabama. . .196.494. . .197.450
2. Oklahoma. . .196.325. . .196.650
3. Florida. . .196.156. . .196.725
4. Utah. . .195.956. . .196.550
5. Oregon State. . .195.919. . .196.225
6. UCLA. . .195.905. . .196.600
7. Arkansas. . .195.894. . .196.750
8. Stanford . . .195.819. . .196.425
9. Georgia. . .195.512. . .196.500
10. Nebraska. . .195.406. . .196.025
19. Southern Utah. . .194.412. . .195.050
33. BYU. . .192.775. . .193.050
50. Utah State. . .190.319. . .191.650