SALT LAKE CITY — The year after every summer Olympics, the rules for gymnastics change somewhat.
This is a year under a new judging code, and for a while, only the top teams were scoring in the 196-point range. Alabama had an early 197.45 that got it ranked No. 1, but for the most part, the higher-ranked clubs scored in the 196s and liked it.
"I think in the beginning everybody (judges) was trying to take the deductions (from the new scoring system), and you saw a lot of scores that were lower," said Utah coach Greg Marsden Monday.
"It looked like for a while it was going to be very difficult to get a 197. Well, all of a sudden in the last two weeks, now we're looking at (almost) 198s. Without question, there's some inflation going on."
Last weekend, No. 2 Oklahoma beat No. 1 Alabama 197.95-197.275, and No. 5 Georgia beat No. 3 UCLA 197.90-197.875.
Meanwhile, Utah — ranked ninth for the third straight week — hit its season high of 196.575 in winning at home over No. 11 Nebraska (195.725).
And even though Marsden says scores from other meets or areas of the country can't be compared, it bothers him to see that much distance between his team and its rivals.
"Well, yeah, of course," he said. "You can't help but wonder — are those teams that much better than we are?"
Utah has always been one of the country's strongest programs, though it's in a bit of a reloading season.
"Maybe they are," he said, but he's not sure.
"From what I've been able to watch online, I don't think that's true, especially when we do our thing. Now, we've made some mistakes. We've shot ourselves in the foot more than we would like to, but if we can get things together and do what we're capable of doing and do what we do in practice, I don't think there's anywhere close to that much difference. This can be a very good team; this can be a very competitive team.
"If we'll clean things up and do what we're capable of, it will be good to be on the same floor with people (in the postseason) rather than trying to compare (scores)."
The key is cleaning up in time. There are three regular-season meets left, starting with Friday's home quad meet with No. 8 Oregon State, No. 18 Penn State and No. 21 Southern Utah at 7 p.m. in the Huntsman Center.
After that, it's off to No. 4 Florida and then home to No. 35 BYU.
Utah did not count a fall in last Friday's win — for the first time in two weeks. But it counted too many scores in the 9.675-9.75 range to dream about reaching 197.
The good thing was that Utah finished with a season-best floor set (49.425), thanks to Stephanie McAllister (9.85) and Kyndal Robarts (9.90) tying their season highs, Daria Bijak hitting 9.925 and Annie DiLuzio scoring her second 9.95 of the meet (she also had one on vault).
"I also liked seeing the fight," said co-coach Megan Marsden. "I saw some of the fight that I saw in the Georgia meet (196.55-196.50 Utah win Jan. 22). Especially down the stretch, we had some people really step up with great performances, and that was nice to see."
JUDGING: Fans all over the country seem to be seeing some large differences from one judge to another for the same routines. They've complained about it on Internet message boards. Ute fans saw it Friday.
McAllister on beam got 9.80 from one judge, 9.60 from the other. Cortni Beers went next and had the same, but opposite, thing happen, 9.60 from the judge that gave McAllister 9.80, and 9.80 from the one who'd given McAllister 9.60. Similar for Nebraska — vaulter Kristin Fyffe and floor worker Maddie Steinauer got 9.85/9.70 scores, beamer Maria Scaffidi got 9.90/9.75. One's a pretty good score; the other's just average. For the Utes, discrepancies were even bigger in their Feb. 19 meet at Michigan.
Greg Marsden understands it to an extent, saying that on bars, for instance, one judge might deduct .1 for short handstands, while another might take only .05. That can add up. "On beam, it can be one judge gave a connection and the other judge didn't give a connection. One can see bent knees, and the other didn't," he said.
It is "perplexing" at times to him, especially when the scores flip flop, as in the case with McAllister and Beers, because he hopes judges are consistent throughout the meet with their deductions.
It vexes Megan Marsden and the athletes because they're trying to get a read on what the judges want. They're never allowed to speak to the judges, who are assigned by a national distributor, so they're mainly guessing at what changes to make. "It's definitely made it hard in terms of coaching and improving routines," she said. "It's been difficult to figure out how to address it."
RANKINGS: Bijak ranks 13th in all-around (39.335) with SUU's Elise Wheeler (39.30) falling to 15th from 11th. Robarts is tied for fifth in vault (9.920), and DiLuzio (9.910) is tied for fifth on floor.
Bijak missed Monday's practice, still ill from Friday, but is expected back Tuesday, said Greg Marsden.6 comments on this story
NCAA women's gymnastics rankings
By Regional Qualifying Score
Team RQS average high score
1. Alabama 197.155 196.800 197.450
2. Oklahoma 196.920 196.800 197.950
3. UCLA 196.900 196.438 197.875
4. Florida 196.685 196.478 197.550
5. Georgia 196.615 196.400 197.900
6. Stanford 196.450 196.211 196.800
7. Arkansas 196.375 196.186 197.025
8. Oregon State 196.355 196.172 196.925
9. Utah 196.220 196.014 196.575
10. LSU 196.110 195.839 196.925
21. S. Utah 194.960 194.738 195.425
35. BYU 193.880 193.663 195.350
52. Utah State 190.555 188.533 191.650