Utah Utes gymnastics: Annie DiLuzio studies up to find her happy place

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 9 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Senior Ute gymnast Annie DiLuzio studies the videos of herself competing, and, like any athlete, she's always finding things she wants to fix.

But when one of the main things her coaches want her to work on is just smiling during her routines, well, that's got to say a lot for "Doozie's" progress.

"I always tell the girls that if we start working on facial expressions, we're down to the little things, and that means you've really fixed the judge-able things," said Utah co-coach Megan Marsden. "When it comes down to facial expression, that's performing for an audience.

"When Annie looks happy on the competitive floor, I think it helps her.

"When she's determined, her look is an unhappy look, so we have to change that so she looks happy a lot of the time so it's not misconstrued."

That's especially important on floor exercise, said Marsden, noting that DiLuzio is using fairly dramatic music that doesn't induce easy smiles.

"I'm pretty intense when I do it," said DiLuzio. "I don't usually smile, but I've been working on it. Everyone has something that's hard for them, and that's one of my things. If I get into the music, then I don't really want to smile, but it's getting there."

DiLuzio has great reason to smile all week this week after her performance Friday in fourth-ranked Utah's 196.475-195.70 win at Arizona State.

After starting the preseason determined to solidify a place in Utah's balance beam lineup, and doing so immediately, she made the exhibition lineup on uneven bars Friday.

That meant she did routines in all four events.

Even if it didn't count as an official all-around, that's what it was to her — the first time since she was in high school that she performed all four events in one meet. She did one bar routine at Utah State a couple of years ago, but she sat out of other events then, so this was a big step.

"It felt good because that's what I've been trying to do for so long, and to accomplish it. I'm really happy, really proud that I could do that," she said.

Bars has always been the most difficult event for DiLuzio, a two-time U.S. team member who was seventh all-around in the 2005 U.S. Championships.

The event became a near impossibility for her after an elbow injury as a freshman — she's battled a stress fracture in a shin for a couple of years, too — but she has long toyed with the idea of someday getting back into the bars lineup.

Friday, one judge gave her bars set a 9.80, and the other gave her 9.45, leaving her puzzled but ecstatic to see any score for herself in that event.

"I probably just got a little nervous and changed (the routine) in the meet, but I was happy. It was a success," she said.

She had 9.875s in each of the other three events, so she'd have totaled 39.25 in the all-around had her bars not been in exhibition. That's higher than the high scores of some gymnasts ranked in the nation's top 25 this week.

In two events, the Byers Gymnastics product from Folsom, Calif., is tied for seventh in the rankings -- on beam, with an average of 9.84, and on floor, with a 9.89 average.

The beam ranking is a triumph for DiLuzio, who had never been consistently in that lineup until this year. "She made a commitment to approach her training differently on that event," said a "proud" Marsden, who has seen DiLuzio go from lots of misses on beam in practice to being able to do hour after hour on the beam in the gym without falling.

"You have to 'bank' a lot of those types of workouts to build your confidence so that in the decisive moment, you can do your routine. You have to really up your standards, and I think she did that."

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