GAINESVILLE Fla. — Heading into its final event, Utah was in good shape to advance to the Super Six of the NCAA Gymnastics Championships as long as it could finish strong on the balance beam — the one event it has struggled with most of the season.
The Utes had posted only the 10th-best regional-qualifying balance beam score of the 12 teams competing in Gainesville, but they put together their second-best total score of the year in the event (49.25) to finish with a team total of 196.625, good enough for second place and a spot in Friday's Super Six.
Top-seeded UCLA ended up winning the afternoon session with a 196.875, and Oklahoma was the third team to earn a spot in the Super Six with a 196.55. From the second session, Alabama (196.85), host Florida (196.775) and Stanford (196.3) also advanced to the finals, which start at 4 p.m.
It was the first time this season that all six gymnasts scored at least a 9.8 on the beam for the Red Rocks, and Kyndal Robarts and Jamie Deetscreek tied for first place with LSU's Susan Jackson and Georgia's Courtney McCool with scores of 9.9. The Utes finished with the highest beam total of the six teams in the afternoon session.
"We kind of decided we could be a beam team," Robarts said. "We decided that in practice. We did a lot of routines. We focused on that event specifically. I think everyone has more confidence in themselves now."
Just because Utah got the high beam score it needed, it didn't mean the team clinched a spot in the final. The Utes still had to suffer through waiting out the final rotation because they finished with a bye.
And with UCLA, LSU and Oklahoma still with chances of finishing with a better team score than the Utes, it made the wait even tougher until the Tigers suffered their second fall on the beam to secure Utah's trip to the Super Six.
"We were all talking about how we were more nervous when LSU was going on beam than when we were actually competing because you are not in control," Robarts said.
Things did not start so well for Robarts, though, as she fell on her first pass on the floor exercise — it was the only fall of the day for Utah. The rest of the team managed to hit its routines and finish with a 49.1 on the event. Senior Annie DiLuzio led the way for the Utes on the event, tying for second in the session with a 9.9.
Robarts was able to regroup after the fall and give the Utes solid scores in the other three events, with all of them counting toward the team's total.
"Going on, I knew I had to hit well on the other three events if we wanted to have a chance of making it, so that's what was going through my mind," Robarts said.
Utah improved on each event after the floor. It scored a 49.125 on the vault apparatus and a 49.15 on the uneven bars before finishing with the 49.25 on the beam.
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Senior Daria Bijak gave the Utes a third-place performance in the all-around, scoring at least a 9.825 in all four events, including a 9.9 on the bars for second place in the session, to finish with a 39.425 total.
Despite the success the team had on the first day of competition, it feels it can still improve for today, especially on its first two events — floor and vault.
"We do still feel that we have a little bit left that we can do better, so it's fun to have another day to do try to do that," co-head coach Megan Marsden said. "Our best events were our last two, so we have to try to be better on vault and floor and repeat what we did on bars and beam."