SALT LAKE CITY — Corrie Lothrop missed about two years of her gymnastics career with a ruptured Achilles, so even though she was maybe Utah's most-heralded freshman of 2011 after being an alternate to the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, she hadn't popped huge scores through her first four meets.
Friday night in the Huntsman Center, Lothrop began to show her promise a little more, leading the Utes with a career-high all-around total of 39.425. In past meets she's scored from 38.975 to 39.375.
"I think she was pretty nervous coming back (from the Achilles), in spite of what a good athlete she is and the experiences she's had," said Ute coach Greg Marsden, whose club had little difficulty in dispatching 41st-ranked Arizona State 196.525-194.125 before a crowd of 12,836 on Annabeth Eberle Breast Cancer Awareness Night.
"I think each week you're seeing her relax and compete with more confidence," said Marsden of Lothrop, who put together a 9.85 vault, 9.875 bars and beam (beam was a career high) and 9.825 floor routine.
"It felt great," said Lothrop, born in China but adopted and reared in Danvers, Mass.
"I put a meet together that I liked. I've been working really hard this week, so I'm glad that all my routines came out the way that I wanted them to be." She said she'd spent the week "just cleaning up everything — execution, landings, things that add up to tenths (off in scores)."
Lothrop could have had a bigger total, but, like many of her teammates, she was perhaps guilty of over-thinking on floor. Where last week she overdid a skill and stepped out of bounds, Friday night, she left it a little short and stepped forward.
Utah's floor set — with two gymnasts getting out-of-bounds deductions and several other errors — was the only place where Marsden thought his young Utes did not make yet another advancement.
"We're not doing anything terribly wrong, we're just not precise with our landings," he said, surmising that most of the mistakes were from being a little too keyed up. "I think they're really pumped up. I think they know they've got a good meet going, and we just have to let it be a little bit more natural."
After all, this diaper-dandy team that was again without seniors Kyndal Robarts — out several more weeks with a knee injury — and Jacq Johnson, who was cleared to compete after last week's mild concussion but held out by Marsden. "Jacq's fine. She just looked a little rusty, and I didn't want to take a chance. I think she was a little frustrated with me because I think she wanted to go tonight," Marsden said.
In Johnson's place on bars, Marsden used Bountiful freshman Hailee Hansen, who scored 9.75, just to reward her for a good week of practice and to see how she'd do. That took fellow freshman Mary Beth Lofgren out of the all-around after she'd done so well in her debut last week.
Utah opened with another strong vault set, nearly sticking all six and scoring 49.225. "I felt like every one was right there tonight," Marsden said. "We had some small shuffles back. They weren't absolute sticks, but we are right there, and we're getting a little better each week."
And it's nice to start strong. "I think it just sets the pace. You start with snowballs down the hill, and it's getting more exciting and bigger and bigger as it goes down the hill.
"We let it get away from us a little bit on floor," Marsden added.
"It just shows how much depth we have without Kyndal (the nation's leading vaulter before she was hurt)," said junior Stephanie McAllister, who scored 39.30 all-around despite a .1 deduction for stepping out of bounds on floor. "It definitely pumped us up." She noted that the small steps just indicate how much more potential this young team has.
Utah continues its four-meet homestand Friday when Washington visits the Huntsman at 7 p.m.
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