Mike Terry, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — In many ways, this University of Utah gymnastics season has been a pleasant surprise as a very young team has come through time after time, despite some daunting circumstances.
Likely the biggest surprise, said coach Greg Marsden, has been the athlete who grew up right in his own backyard.
Freshman Mary Beth Lofgren has — somewhat unexpectedly — become quite the go-to person after the Utes lost their best-known gymnast, senior Kyndal Robarts, to a knee injury that may keep her out until the postseason. And then last week, the Utes lost senior Jacq Johnson to a mild concussion.
Johnson has been cleared to return but only got to train Thursday, so Marsden wasn't sure how much she'll be able to do tonight at 7 in the Huntsman Center when Utah's oldest rival, Arizona State, visits for the Annabeth Eberle Breast Cancer Awareness Night meet.
Utah (3-1) is ranked third in the nation. ASU is 1-6 and ranked 41st. The two teams were strong rivals from the late 1970s through the 1990s.
If Johnson can do bars tonight, it will likely knock Lofgren — who is from Salt Lake's Skyline High and Sandy's Olympus School of Gymnastics — out of the all-around after she made a strong debut last Friday, scoring 39.225 against Stanford.
That performance included a 9.90 on beam, only the fourth score that high for Utah in any event this season.
It also included a mildly sprained ankle that could limit Lofgren a bit tonight.
"I love beam, and so to be able to score that on that event is really exciting," said Lofgren, a Level 10 gymnast who was 11th all-around at the 2009 Junior Olympics. "I just feel most comfortable on the beam. It's been the easiest one for me to 'get.' "
She considers it "still a big shock to be at Utah," and she looks up to freshman teammates Corrie Lothrop and Nansy Damianova.
"I never thought of myself as like Corrie and Nansy, who's been at the Olympics. It's an honor to be here on their team," Lofgren said.
Marsden said that when he recruited Lofgren, he assumed she would help the team quickly on beam and bars, but she has progressed well on vault and floor as well.
"She kind of struggled with injuries the last couple of seasons, so that may be part of why she was a bit of a surprise. We knew she would contribute," he said. "I just had no idea how significantly she'd contribute and how early she'd be able to do that."
HONORING EBERLE: Utah has done a breast-cancer awareness night for years, with fans who wear pink getting free admission. Marsden lost the grandmother to the disease. But the cause took on even more meaning when Eberle, a crowd favorite from 2002-05, was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer. She is the first former Ute gymnast to have that disease, although Michelle Hilse (1987-88) had a different cancer and has apparently beaten it, Marsden said.
Eberle — who has been accepted by Utah's physician's assistant program that she will begin in May and who still lives in Utah, working in medical research — underwent apparently successful treatment.
"This brings it even closer to home," said Marsden. "You typically don't think of someone Annabeth's age (27) with breast cancer."
Arizona State (1-6) at No. 3 Utah (3-1)
Today, 7 p.m.
- BYU football: Fan-developed software gives...
- Bodyguards allegedly beat up 2 fans who took...
- Deseret News live streaming schedule for boys...
- Utah Jazz: No lottery luck, so Jazz remain in...
- Utah Jazz: Team is a long shot to win NBA's...
- Utes football recruiting: Polynesian players...
- High school baseball: 5A, 4A state tournament...
- High school baseball: Logan's Chase Nelson...
- Utes football recruiting: Polynesian... 130
- USA Rugby: 'What BYU won ... was a... 78
- High school baseball: 5A, 4A state... 53
- Brad Rock: USU athletics can go home again 22
- Bodyguards allegedly beat up 2 fans who... 18
- Dick Harmon: BYU coach Mike Littlewood... 13
- Utah State football: New coach Matt... 11
- If hired, Jeff Hornacek will face same... 10