SALT LAKE CITY — On Saturday night, Utah's gymnastics team found out that it can, indeed, be good, that it can live up to its glorious past as it had strong showings in all four events at its own regional championships and easily qualified for the April 22-24 2010 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships.
On Monday, there was more good news. The NCAA made the Utes — who went into last week as the nation's No. 10-ranked team — the fifth seed for the national championships at the University of Florida.
By virtue of its seed, Utah gets the afternoon session in the team preliminaries on Thursday, April 22, and that's music to Utah's ears.
Teams in the afternoon session are No. 1 seed UCLA, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 8 Oregon State, No. 9 LSU and No. 12 Nebraska. Host and second-seeded Florida competes in the evening session with No. 3 Alabama, No. 6 Stanford, No. 7 Arkansas, No. 10 Missouri and No. 11 Michigan. The top three finishers from each session advance to Friday night's Super Six team championships.
"I like the afternoon because, if we qualify on to finals, it gives you more time to recover," said Ute coach Greg Marsden. "You can get back and do your treatments, go out with the team, have a relaxed dinner and get to bed early. If you're in the evening session, by the time you get out of there, it's 10 o'clock or after, and you've got to get your kids fed and get treatments done, and they're so wound up it's hard to settle down and get to sleep, and you've got a much shorter recovery time."
Co-coach Megan Marsden adds that it's good, too, because the host is always in the evening session, when the crowd is loud and partisan. The afternoon session is more relaxed.
"And it's the same rotation," pointed out Greg Marsden, "that worked for us at regionals, so we can't be too upset. I'd much rather end on beam than start on beam."
Utah worried a bit about starting on beam in the regional because beam had been a problem spot the second half of the season. But the Utes came through with an outstanding beam set Saturday, scoring 49.35, the highest event score of the regional for them, and that brought confidence.
"I hope it gives them as a group some confidence that it is OK to approach that event with aggressiveness," said Megan Marsden, the beam coach. "I think some of them were a little too careful (earlier in the season), too 'don't-overdo-things.' They just tried to get up there and carefully do beam, and you can't do that."
Last week, Greg Marsden met with his team and learned some of the trepidations — mainly living up to the Utes' history. He told them to be aggressive and unafraid to fail.
"We were competing tight for much of the season, and especially toward the end of the season, and I think once we got the elephant out of the room, once we talked about what the concern is, we quit being afraid of failing, then I think it allowed us to compete to be successful, not to compete to avoid failure," he said.
"That was our beam team. That's what we're capable of, and it showed," said senior Annie DiLuzio. "That's how we know to work beam. We put it together."
DiLuzio had a strong outing, starting with 9.90 on floor followed by 9.925 on vault, the first two events that Utah did Saturday — and the first two they'll do at Florida. For her, the rotation was good. "I loved it. We came out with a lot of energy on floor and then moved on to vault and then a little relaxer after that (bye). I think it was great for us. Ending on beam the way we did was a good confidence builder."
That rotation set up DiLuzio to be a leader, said Megan Marsden. "She was able to just nail those and be our big scorer. I think it helped send a message of confidence."
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