SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah's gymnastics team has improved its meet score with every competition, and it is coming off the biggest jump in its score yet after reaching 196.975 last Friday.
The best payoff for the athletes may have come Monday morning, however, when coach Greg Marsden grabbed his phone around 11 to tell them to not report for the afternoon's practice.
"I just texted them and said, 'No practice today. Happy Valentine's Day,' " he said.
It was at least in part because the team has simply tended to business all season, each week taking its goals and mostly living up to them, with the progression easily reflected in advancing scores – 195.70, 195.90, 196.20, 196.50, 196.525 and Friday's 196.975.
Marsden said he had other reasons in mind, too, for giving the athletes a day off. "I try to do this occasionally just to break up the monotony and change things up. It's a good mental release. And physical."
BYE-BYE RANKINGS: Even if the third-ranked Utes improve their score again Friday, when No. 8 Michigan visits the Huntsman Center at 7 p.m. Utah will be nowhere to be found in the rankings that come out on Monday.
That's because, from now until the postseason, the rankings will be compiled by Regional Qualifying Score instead of the total season average that has been used for the first six weeks of the season.
The Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) is an average of a team's six best scores, but at least three of those scores must be from road meets. Utah has had only two away meets, so it will drop out of next week's rankings. Utah's third road meet will be Feb. 25 at Utah State, and it will return to the rankings Feb. 28.
No. 1-ranked Florida will just squeak in with its third away meet on Sunday.
Since Utah is not in a conference, Marsden has to adjust his schedule to accommodate other top teams — like Michigan, Georgia, Stanford, Florida, Nebraska or Oregon State — who are in conferences and therefore have much of their schedules set for them.
"Ideally, we wouldn't have had four weeks of home meets," Marsden said, but that's all he could work out for 2011.
Next year, when Utah moves to the Pac-12, that problem will be solved.
RANKINGS: With its best bars set (49.375) so far on Friday, Utah moved up one spot to fourth. BYU is 18th. The Utes are also fourth on vault and beam. Utah had been third in vaulting and just had its best score, 49.325, but Michigan posted 49.50 to jump past the U. Utah is eighth on floor.
Southern Utah ranks 16th on floor and 22nd on beam.
Ute junior Stephanie McAllister moved from eighth to sixth in all-around rankings, averaging 39.325, while freshman teammate Mary Beth Lofgren went from 15th to 14th (39.225). Ute senior Kyndal Robarts is still No. 1 in vault rankings, though she will drop out when things go to RQS as she had just two meets before her knee injury. U. freshman Victoria Shanley is tied for 12th.
McAllister is also fourth on bars with senior Gael Mackie tied for 12th.
Lofgren is tied for ninth with freshman Corrie Lothrop 12th on beam.
ROBARTS UPDATE: Marsden said Robarts was able to do a little training last week, but she still walks with a limp and a brace. She is progressing at the expected pace from the Jan. 22 knee injury that will likely keep her out until the postseason, at least.
NCAA women's gymnastics rankings
Team. . .Average. . .High score. . .RQS*
1. Florida 197.150 197.725 —
2. Stanford 196.650 196.975 196.585
3. Utah 196.300 196.975 —
4. Oklahoma 196.118 197.225 196.060
5. Georgia 196.043 196.725 195.955
6. Alabama 195.988 197.075 195.770
7. Oregon State 195.896 196.950 195.935
8. Michigan 195.779 196.800 195.575
9. UCLA 195.575 196.675 195.355
10. Nebraska 195.432 196.075 195.440
27. S. Utah 194.208 195.750 193.900
28. BYU 194.158 195.200 193.950
42. Utah State 191.808 192.800 191.610
* Region Qualifying Score
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