When she was a freshman gymnast last year at the University of Utah, Cortni Beers felt burned out after an elite career. For the 2009 Utes, she did bars (9.175) and beam (9.70) in the season opener — and never competed again.
In 2010, despite spraining an ankle the day before the Utes left for their first meet, Beers has been a regular on bars and beam. She upped her career high on beam to 9.80 vs. Georgia, but her other eight scores this season in those two events had been 9.75 or less.
So imagine how big a step she took last Friday, imagine her surprise, when she landed after bars and saw 9.90 on the scoreboard.
"Oh my gosh, so amazing," Beers said at Monday's practice. "I was like, 'Oh my gosh, is that really my score? 9.90? That can't be my score.' "
But it was, and for the first time in her Ute career, she was an event winner, tied with senior teammate Jamie Deetscreek.
"I was just focusing on what I'd been working on, our mental choreography and hitting the handstands. I think hitting the handstands was what did it for me," said Beers.
After the meet, coach Greg Marsden had praise. "She's getting stronger and more confident as the year goes on. I'm really pleased with her progress," he said. "She didn't have confidence last year, and it was something you could see growing. She's getting sharper and cleaner and more aggressive."
Beers went into this week's practice with, "Just a better feeling, knowing that I can help out the team that much. I think just this year in general, me helping out has helped me realize that I do belong here."
The two-time U.S. national team member from Tulsa said watching from the sidelines last season probably kindled her fire to compete again after that elite career. "I was just so tired of everything. Maybe not performing is what made me realize I really did want to be out there again," she said.
She admits she didn't know the next step, didn't know how to get herself restarted. She never thought about quitting, but "I knew I had a lot of work to do to get to where the rest of my team was," she said.
Spending the summer in the Ute gym with teammates "in a no-pressure situation" made a gradual change, and once she got her spirit back, it was time to work on the body. She lost weight and came into fall camp with the tools she needed. It all just kind of happened. I'm not complaining," Beers said, laughing.
When she sprained the ankle, Marsden had her concentrate this year on the events that do less pounding, bars and beam, and that's fine with her. "Yeah, I like that. It's a nice beginning," she said.
Ute co-coach Megan Marsden said the one problem with Beers' beam is in her leap combination that gives her .3 bonus. It's a leap followed by a ring jump, in which she must look straight up into the arena lights. She had a wobble on it Friday. "In her defense, it's a very difficult thing," said Megan, adding a change might be made if another .3 bonus skill can be found to fit into the routine.
FAMILIARITY: Megan Marsden said Beers made mental progress the last two meets, able to shut out the worries of performing before her two former coaches from Krafft Academy in Tulsa. At Arizona State, Jean Luc Carrion is now a Sun Devil assistant, and Friday night, Kristi Krafft was one of the judges — in the two events in which Beers does not compete.
"That added some pressure for her I think," Marsden said. "I felt like she handled both weeks very well with some good MC (mental choreography) ... to help calm her nerves. That's helping her confidence. She can see that she can have some control in difficult situations."
RANKINGS: Utah dropped to fifth from fourth, averaging 196.088, just behind Florida (196.117). It competes Friday at No. 16 Michigan. Southern Utah ranks 19th at 194.85.
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