SALT LAKE CITY — That thumbs-and-forefingers block "U" hand signal done so much by University of Utah athletes and fans lately had its origins in the gymnastics program.
Superfan John Bircumshaw and Ute gymnast Melissa Vituj used to do it to each other before her floor exercise routine, and it's sure caught on.
Now, the Ute gymnasts have decided to incorporate the "U" into all of their floor routines this year.
"I think that is such a fun way to get the crowd involved," said Ute junior all-arounder Stephanie McAllister, who posted the first two event wins of her career in last Friday's season-opening 195.70-195.30 upset victory of top-ranked, defending NCAA-champion UCLA on the Huntsman Center floor. McAllister took the all-around title for the meet with 39.175 and tied for first on floor with 9.85 with UCLA's Olivia Cortney.
"We all started to talk about it," McAllister said of the "U" hand-sign, "and decided it would be a fun and good idea, so we all put them in our floor routines. It makes our routines more fun."
"They got together and decided they'd all choreograph the 'U's' into their routines," said coach Greg Marsden. "It's just something within our team and with our fans."
It's not totally original as all Florida floor workers have the two-armed Gator Chomp in their routines, but this is much more subtle.
"Just like a fun way to be spirited with the school," said McAllister.
And a good way to sort of honor the cheer-leading Bircumshaw, who attends most home and many away meets with wife Georgia. "I'm sure he loves that. I think he'll appreciate that," McAllister said.
JUST FUN: Last year, senior Daria Bijak often mentioned how she had finally learned to just have fun with her gymnastics and soak in all the moments she had left in the sport.
That seems to have caught on. Several Utes — even juniors like McAllister and Cortni Beers — mentioned after Friday's meet that they, too, are trying to savor all that they see.
"I just want to enjoy this experience, and I think I really did (Friday)," McAllister said. "All the fans are just — I think I just took it all in, and it's so much fun to compete here.
"I think it's fair to say that (Friday) was a good reflection of our preseason because everything went well, our team meshes so well. We all get along. We all have fun. I think a good way to describe it was 'fun.'
Everyone was just having fun with what they were doing, even though that sounds cliché."
"That's like a big point in gymnastics," said Beers, noting that enjoying the moment can make the pressure disappear.
"If you're really focused on the outcome of it, it can have a negative impact on your performance." But if you're drinking it all in, it's a positive thing.
PAC-12: UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field said she's happy to have the Utes coming into the Pac-12 next season.
"I am so looking forward to Greg and his passion and his verbalizing his passion, and I just want to sit back and go, 'Oh, I love Greg Marsden,'" Kondos Field said.
"I just think it's great. It's new blood. It's one of the premier sports in the country, and you've got a coach who thinks outside the box and is never satisfied. I feel that's the infusion that our conference needs.
"We've got great coaches, we all tremendously respect each other, but I think it's perfect timing to have that fire, and Greg Marsden, if nothing else, brings fire."
NCAA women's gymnastics rankings
Rank. . .Team. . .Average. . .High score
1 Florida 196.925 196.925
2 Stanford 196.625 196.625
3 Utah 195.700 195.700
(tie) Michigan 195.700 195.700
5 UCLA 195.613 195.925
23 Southern Utah 193.475 193.475
26 BYU 193.225 193.225
29 Utah State 192.800 192.800
- BYU, Utah and Utah State 2013 football...
- BYU basketball: Agustin Ambrosino leaves BYU...
- BYU, Utah and Utah State 2013 football...
- High school softball: Seniors lead Copper...
- High school boys soccer: Lehi beats Bingham,...
- High school boys soccer: Practice makes...
- High school softball: Salem Hills soars to...
- High school baseball: Bingham Miners bring...
- High school baseball: 5A, 4A state... 56
- Hard work, dedication pay off for... 56
- BYU basketball: Dave Rose hoping Tyler... 28
- BYU basketball: Agustin Ambrosino... 27
- BYU, Utah and Utah State 2013 football... 22
- Bodyguards allegedly beat up 2 fans who... 19
- Utah Jazz: No lottery luck, so Jazz... 19
- Utah State football: New coach Matt... 13