After straining an Achilles tendon a week before the Utah gymnastics season began in January, freshman Meg Whitney spent seven weeks watching her teammates. She was starting to think she might not get into coach Greg Marsden's lineup this season.
"All the lineups were starting to be, like, set. I just didn't know if he was going to want to put me in rather than someone else, who has already been competing and had those meets under their belt," she said.
Then came injuries to Stephanie McAllister (sprained ankle), Beth Rizzo (torn toe tendon) and fellow freshman Katelyn Mohr (back flareup), and Whitney was suddenly on vault and floor last Friday at BYU. And she could compete again this Friday night at 7 when No. 9 Utah welcomes No. 11 Nebraska to the Huntsman Center.
"It was good to get out there and compete again," said Whitney. But the real benefit may be to her outlook. "It definitely makes me more motivated in practice because I have something that I know I can look forward to," she said.
Whitney popped a 9.80 in her collegiate debut, vaulting long but a little low — something she plans to resolve. "I think I just need to work on changing my block (pushoff from the vault table) so I can go up a little more," she said of her best event.
On floor, one judge devalued her to a 9.90 start value for her middle pass. "I think I tucked it around a little bit, and they could have taken off of my start value there, and also, one of my jumps, I think I just cheated into it a little bit, so they also could have taken off from my start value there," she said.
"I felt pretty good about my first pass and my last pass."
"I thought they were pretty tough on her on floor — which is OK," said Marsden. "There's some things we can certainly continue to work on, but she's got a really nice style and presentation out on the floor. She potentially could be very good on both those events."
Whitney was born in Salt Lake City — her 18th birthday was last Thursday — and attended Missy Marlowe's gymnastics school before moving to Toronto at age 8. She moved again to Arizona several years ago and trained at Desert Devils, where Marlowe's former Ute teammate Shelly Schaerrer Eaton was a coach.
This is the second year in a row in which Whitney started the season with an injury. Last year, she sprained an ankle at the last minute. The setback this year, she said, "was probably more discouraging."
RANKINGS: Utah's team rating stayed the same this week, while Southern Utah moved up one place to 20th, BYU fell two to 33rd and Utah State stayed 44th.
Individually, T-Bird Elise Wheeler and Ute Daria Bijak are tied for 12th in all-around with 39.30 Regional Qualifying Scores. They are tied with several others for 11th on bars (9.85). Ute Jamie Deetscreek is 15th all-around at 39.20. Utah's Kyndal Robarts remained No. 3 in vaulting at 9.92. Utah's Annie DiLuzio is tied for fifth on floor (9.895).
BEAMING?: Co-coach Megan Marsden is upset that her event, beam, has been the problem spot the last two meets with two falls each night. Leadoff McAllister has fallen both nights, and the Marsdens are trying to encourage her to think forward and visualize doing the routines well rather than dwelling on errors. It's also the event on which she hurt her ankle at Michigan.
McAllister is eager to work with sports psychologist Dr. Keith Henschen now that he's back from work with the U.S. ski and speedskating teams in the Olympics.
Greg Marsden said he's thinking of taking out McAllister's unique jump with 1 1/2 revolutions for now. She's the only one who does it, it's hard to do and it's the place she fell twice. He said she got back on too quickly at BYU and fell again.
CAREER HIGH: Robarts said her career-best 39.375 all-around score Friday at BYU was good, but she's looking to do better. "It's always nice to have a career high. Hopefully I can just improve from that. I still made some mistakes," she said, glad that her bars routine seems to be getting consistent. "No matter what events you do, you feel like you need to be counted on, but it's nice to be on all four and know that my scores are helping."
NCAA women's gymnastics rankings
March 1, by Regional Qualifying Score
Team RQS average high score
1. Alabama 196.910 196.741 197.450
2. Oklahoma 196.730 196.656 197.250
3. UCLA 196.650 196.278 197.375
4. Florida 196.550 196.344 197.250
5. Georgia 196.490 196.213 197.200
6. Oregon State 196.355 196.253 196.925
7. Stanford 196.270 196.138 196.675
8. Arkansas 196.165 196.094 197.025
9. Utah196.155 195.944 196.550
10. LSU 195.945 195.703 196.475
20. Southern Utah194.885 194.775 195.425
33. BYU193.630 193.650 195.350
49. Utah State190.450 188.456 191.650Utah GYMnastics notebook